Failure to cooperate
The incident occurred on 10 June 2007 at Aberthaw Power Station in South Wales, where RWE npower had contracted AMEC to install an emissions abatement system. As evening approached, an RWE npower team turned the lights of a water cooling system “seal pit” onto a maintenance operation, plunging the top of the pit into near darkness. One of the team, Christopher Booker, went up to the platform above the pit and fell through an opening – measuring four metres by 0.8 metres – in the platform walkway.
The HSE’s investigation concluded that neither AMEC nor RWE had “clear ownership” of the work, and that their control measures were inadequate for protecting the openings: in particular, they should have ensured collective protection by placing a fixed scaffold barrier around the openings, rather than relying on individual safety harnesses.
Both companies pleaded guilty: RWE npower, to failing to protect the safety of its employees (s.2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974); and AMEC , to a failure to cooperate with RWE npower (reg. 11 of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999).
The fine imposed on RWE npower amounted to 6.3% of its 2009 pre-tax profit of £4 million, which is relatively high for such a company. AMEC’s fine represented 0.9% of the group’s 2009 pre-tax profits of £21.8 million.