Railway safety and crime

05.10.18

DB Cargo found guilty after electrocuted boy suffers life-changing injuries

DB Cargo UK has been convicted after a 13-year-old boy suffered life-changing injuries due to an electric shock from 25,000-volt OLE at the Tyne Yard in Gateshead, where a disused signal box – known locally as the ‘haunted house’ – had been left exposed to trespassers despite the high safety risks it presented.

After a four-week trial at Newcastle Crown Court due to the ORR raising the incident, the company was found guilty of failing to discharge its duty under the Health and Safety at Work Act.

According to the regulator, DB Cargo failed to ensure that trespassers at the yard – who often visited the disused signal box – were not exposed to health and safety risks.

On 14 June 2014, two young boys, aged 11 and 13, spent a short time in the ‘haunted house’, and climbed onto the roof of a stationary wagon which formed part of a larger 22-wagon freight train that was due to leave the depot later that evening. While on top of the wagon, they made contact with the live current and one of the boys suffered serious injuries.

The ORR said DB Cargo was fully aware that the site attracted trespassers – made clear due to the amount of graffiti on buildings, fly tipping, vandalism, and reports of drinking and drug use – but did not put up a fence or gate to prevent it. There was also no security patrol and no warning signs to deter trespassers at their point of entry.

In January 2013, the company had noted that the signal box needed to be demolished because of the risks it presented. In April that year, inspectors gave the box the highest possible risk rating, and a month later quotes were obtained for demolition. Despite this, it wasn’t demolished until October 2014 – four months after the incident.

HM chief inspector of railways Ian Prosser said his thoughts were with the families of the victims who sustained injuries and their friends and family who were left “deeply affected by this traumatic event and who continue to live with the consequences of it.”

“We are absolutely committed to protecting the health and safety of passengers, staff and anyone who comes into contact with the railway network and, as this prosecution shows, we will not hesitate to take enforcement action when necessary,” he added.

“We welcome the jury’s verdict and expect to see DB Cargo (UK) Ltd and others make proper risk assessments of their sites and ensure that necessary safety measures are taken.”

(Top image c. David Robinson)

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