Railway safety and crime


Southeastern fined £2.5m after cleaner is electrocuted on live rail

Southeastern Trains along with a company contracted to clean its trains have been fined following the death of a cleaner three years ago.

The prosecution, which was brought about by the Office of Rail and Road, has resulted in a £2.5m fine for the train operator and a £1.1m fine for Wetton Cleaning Services (Wettons).

Roger Lower, 46, was electrocuted after falling onto a 750 volt live rail at West Marina Depot, near Hastings in May 2014.

Mr. Lower, who had been working for Wettons for three months, had arrived for his night shift and he and his colleagues had started cleaning the sides of the trains, Guildford Crown Court heard.

He was later found lying on the live rail, and emergency services were called, but he sadly died shortly afterwards.

Cleaners at West Marina should have been protected from the live rail by ‘Protection Boards,’ but the ORR reports that inspectors found that though four boards were present at the location, none were in use.

Wettons was employed by Southeastern to clean its trains and the West Marina depot was leased from Network Rail for that purpose.

ORR’s investigation revealed health and safety failures by both companies, with a culture of cutting corners, exposing workers to serious risks.

The failures included relying on paperwork as opposed to checking what was happening in the depot; not ensuring that safe systems were in operation; and inadequate training and supervision.

Ian Prosser, HM chief inspector of railways, said: “Our thoughts are with Mr Lower’s family and friends at this difficult time.

“The failings by Wettons and Southeastern were unacceptable and show the consequences of not abiding by health and safety, including the provisions of the law.  

“As always, ORR is committed to monitoring compliance and taking tough enforcement action when necessary, as this tragic case demonstrates.”

Managing director at Southeastern, David Statham, said that the train operator deeply regrets that it did not prevent the death of Mr. Lower.

He said: “At Southeastern, we set ourselves high safety standards underpinned by robust procedures.

“We recognise that on this occasion there’s more we and our contractors could have done to meet those high standards.

“That is why we took decisive action immediately after this incident, commissioning an independent review to identify lessons learnt, which included the introduction of additional safety checks and the installation of extra safety equipment.”

RTM has contacted Wettons for comment.

Top Image: Class466cuxto


Andrew Gwilt   20/11/2017 at 16:50

Cleaning any train when the live DC 750v 3rd Rail is still live is very dangerous work. Especially when cleaning near electrical components. As Water and Electricity don’t mix.

Icn   21/11/2017 at 19:26

Cleaning a train near a live conductor rail is NOT necessarily dangerous work so long as the correct procedures are followed. Evidently in this case they were not.

Rajput   21/11/2017 at 22:35

No more security precautions were taken into account since long. Very sad for the Mr. Lower family. Let's see Southeastern watch the steps now.

Inobeme Zibiri   22/11/2017 at 09:55

This is so unfortunate situation, i feel bad for Mr lower and his family. The cleaning company is a company from hell, i have worked for them in the past and left because of the poor behavioural safety and total lack of respect for employees. Although I was from agency, I reported them to south Eastern rail, they carried out investigations and few issues i raised were dealt with, but not the working conditions of the employees. Wetton should never be a company to work in a rail environment, because of their attitude towards safety and their lack of respect for their workers. If south Eastern continues with such a useless company they are putting the lives of people at risk and potentially accidents if not fatal in the waiting. Please south Eastern should care about the safety of its contractors and take the contract from Wetton.

Vaughan Cole   22/11/2017 at 14:42

Why does it take three years to conclude what appears to be an open and shut case? Is there info in the public domain such that the duration of this prosecution can be fully understood? Only now can the magnitude of the fine drive a message home to duty holders.

Anonymous   22/11/2017 at 15:41

This is such a horrendous story to read! Having worked for Wettons head office myself I know pretty much everything that goes on behind closed doors! In my eyes they are not educated enough in the health and safety department and still to this day perform so many health and safety breaches on the railway contract! It’s a shame because no amount of money will bring a loved one back but to the directors of that company it will be money paid not thought about and brushed under the carpet. I have never met such a cold hearted bunch of people! They have no value to any of their staff and get rid of people on a day to day basis without undertaking any proper investigation and the majority of the time forging documents! In my opinion I feel that southeastern are leaving themselves wide open continuing to contract Wettons for the cleaning! There are far better companies who deserve this contract without a doubt who actually care and value their staff. I am ashamed to say that I worked for this company but I am forever great full that I am away from it all now...

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