Power firm fined over worker's death

John Higgins killed in 2008 explosion
John Higgins killed in 2008 explosion Photo:

A power company has been fined £275,000 over the death of a worker in an explosion at an electricity sub-station in Chelmsford.

John Higgins, 59, died from 95 per cent burns and inhaling toxic fumes after the blast in May 2008. He was just six months away from retirement

Thousands of people across Chelmsford were left with no power and smoke could be seen for miles.

Since the fatal explosion more than four years ago the electrical substation in Bishop Hall Lane in Chelmsford has undergone substantial repairs.

Mr Higgins, a maintenance engineer for EDF Energy, was called here to investigate a fault on May 7 2008. A transformer tap changer exploded, covering him with burning oil.

Despite a swift response from the emergency services, he died at the scene. An inquest held three years later recorded a verdict of accidental death.

An investigation by The Health and Safety Executive found that EDF Energy, now known as UK Power Networks Limited, had failed to properly assess work with tap changes and failed to train employees to carry out this task.

In a statement, the company said:

We deeply regret the death of John Higgins who died in a work-related accident on May 7, 2008.

By our guilty plea entered at the earliest opportunity last year we acknowledged our responsibilities for what tragically happened on that day.

We reiterate our condolences to John's wife and children, wider family and friends. He was a well-liked and respected colleague with 35 years of valued service.

– EDF Energy

UK Power Networks Limited says it entered a guilty plea at the earliest opportunity and acknowledges responsibility for what happened. It was fined £275,000 and £145,000 prosecution costs.

The company's since introduced revised procedures to safeguard their staff and help prevent this tragic accident from being repeated.