Gas firm fined £2,000,000 over death of boy (11)

Robbie Williamson

Robbie Williamson

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One of the UK’s biggest gas firms has been fined £2,000,000 after admitting safety failings in relation to the death of a young boy.

On April 24th last year, 11-year-old Robbie Williamson and two friends were using a pipeline running on the outside of Dugdale Bridge at Lowerhouse Lane, Burnley, to cross the Leeds and Liverpool Canal when Robbie fell into the water below, hitting his head. He was taken to Royal Blackburn Hospital but died later that day.

Workmen work on the bridge where Robbie Williamson fell to his death more safe.

Workmen work on the bridge where Robbie Williamson fell to his death more safe.

The cause of his death was recorded as drowning and a head injury.

Preston Crown Court was told by the Health and Safety Executive (prosecuting) that National Grid Gas plc failed to properly protect the exposed pipeline as the boys were able to climb on to it from a footpath running from the road to the canal tow path.

National Grid Gas plc operates the gas distribution network delivering gas to approximately half the homes and businesses in the UK through its network of pipes.

The court heard National Grid Gas plc have a procedure for inspecting this type of above ground pipe crossing, and requirements for providing measures to prevent access on to these structures.

This was a tragic accident which has had a devastating impact on Robbie’s family and friends

HSE Inspector

However, their records incorrectly showed the pipe was buried within the bridge rather than exposed on the outside, therefore this crossing had not been subject to any inspections and had no access prevention measures fitted.

Maintenance work had been carried out on the pipe in the past but the records had not been updated.

It is typical for pipe crossings to have steel ‘fans’ or similar measures fitted to prevent access. The court was told such measures have been fitted to the pipe crossing following the incident after a HSE improvement notice was issued.

National Grid Gas plc, of The Strand, London, pleaded guilty to breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and was fined £2,000,000 with £36,102.90 costs.

Floral tributes for Robbie Williamson (11) who died after falling off the canal bridge on Lowerhouse Lane.

Floral tributes for Robbie Williamson (11) who died after falling off the canal bridge on Lowerhouse Lane.

HSE Inspector Ian Redshaw said, after the hearing: “This was a tragic accident which has had a devastating impact on Robbie’s family and friends.

“The company failed to assess the risks associated with this pipe to members of the public, and as a result they had not put in place any measures to prevent or deter access onto the pipe. This was a significant cause in Robbie’s death.”

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