back to article BT hauled into Old Bailey after engineer's 7-metre fall broke both his ankles

One-time monopoly telco BT is in court on charges brought by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) after an engineer fell seven metres onto a concrete stairwell and broke both his ankles. The three-week trial, over allegations that BT failed in its duty of care to the engineer, is taking place at the Central Criminal Court – …

  1. TheProf
    FAIL

    The three-week trial

    THREE WEEK?

    It's a wonder we get anything done in this country.

    Ahh, yes. The irony of it all.

    1. boltar Silver badge

      Re: The three-week trial

      Clearly BT are contesting it.

      Not making any comment on this case in particular, but you do wonder sometimes when common sense should come into doing a job. You can't expect a company to hold its employees hands 100% of the time and be responsible for every dumb decision they make just because they're the employer.

      1. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge

        Re: The three-week trial

        But you can expect a company to make sure their employees are properly trained, to make sure the correct equipment is available and that there are enough staff to do the job safely, and to give anyone who breaks the rules a bloody good bollocking rather than turning a blind eye or, worse, cajoling them into breaking the rules. Roughly this can be summed up by saying a company has a "duty of care".

        1. Roland6 Silver badge

          Re: The three-week trial

          "But you can expect a company to make sure their employees are properly trained, to make sure the correct equipment is available and that there are enough staff to do the job safely, and to give anyone who breaks the rules a bloody good bollocking"

          I suspect there is a large question over the extent to which the engineer did or didn't follow their training and whether both sides adhered to the lone worker procedures and whether these procedures were adequate.

          One thing is certain, if the engineer did fall seven metres onto a concrete stairwell they are very lucky to be alive, let alone get away with such slight injuries.

        2. Peter2 Silver badge

          Re: The three-week trial

          It'd be interesting to know a bit more about the individual case, maybe el reg will cover this when it's all finished and more information is available.

          Presumably the engineer didn't know he was about to step on a ceiling tile, because nobody in their right mind would deliberately put their weight onto a ceiling tile. Even if the tile didn't break you'd almost certainly be going downwards anyway because the supports are certainly not rated for person sized weights.

          1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            Re: The three-week trial

            "maybe el reg will cover this when it's all finished and more information is available."

            I'm hoping that too. As is, it's pretty much a non-story until the case is concluded and the details are made available. All the available facts are in the headline/sub. The story itself is superfluous.

        3. boltar Silver badge

          Re: The three-week trial

          "But you can expect a company to make sure their employees are properly trained, to make sure the correct equipment is available and that there are enough staff to do the job safely, and to give anyone who breaks the rules a bloody good bollocking rather than turning a blind eye or, worse, cajoling them into breaking the rules. Roughly this can be summed up by saying a company has a "duty of care"."

          Yes, well assuming all that - how do you expect the company to enforce it if the engineer is working on his own and does something stupid? I realise this is the era of the kidult millenial who'll run off to hug a teddy bear in their safe space as soon as they get stressed and probably need to be watched, but mature adults don't expect or want round the clock supervision.

          1. Ol' Grumpy
            Paris Hilton

            Re: The three-week trial

            Send them out in crews so they aren't working alone in situations like this one? Having said that, I know from experience in the last couple of weeks that an Openreach engineer working on the pole near us had to wait until a colleague arrived so he could be observed as said pole has electrical cables running across it too so maybe they are taking things a bit more seriously?

            Paris - well, pole obviously :)

          2. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge

            Re: The three-week trial

            "...how do you expect the company to enforce it if the engineer is working on his own and does something stupid?"

            I don't. But I do expect them to do everything reasonable. Which, to repeat myself, means reprimanding employees caught breaking the rules, and terminating the contracts of anyone who persists.

            But if this was a single engineer who did something stupid I doubt it would be in court. A three week case suggests there's plenty of evidence to be heard. So perhaps a disagreement about whether the procedures were adequate. Or perhaps there was a management culture that pressured people into ignoring the rules.

            1. Jason 24

              Re: The three-week trial

              Each BT engineer seems to follow their own rules. For example I've recently had 2 PSTN lines installed at an office.

              The first bloke (in his 40s?) was more than happy to run the cable up from the demarc on the ground floor, up to the 3rd, then across the ceiling tiles on the 3rd to the comms cabinet and fitted the NTE there.

              The 2nd bloke (in his 20s) point blank refused to go above head height under any circumstances, he was willing to attach a long cable to the demarc on the ground floor and leave it up to us to run it up the 2nd floor.

              Not sure if that's a generational thing?

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: The three-week trial

                then across the ceiling tiles

                Irrespective of the height, if the cables weren't of a suitable flame-retardant type, they shouldn't be run in a void above ceiling tiles.

              2. Danny 14 Silver badge

                Re: The three-week trial

                Maybe the 20yr old hadnt donebhis working at height? You cant be compelled to go up ladders (some people are afraid of heights )

                1. Anonymous Coward
                  Anonymous Coward

                  Re: The three-week trial

                  I was 18 at a telecomms training school. God knows how I got the job I had been scared of heights all my life. The trainer simply said "mate if you can't stand heights you are in the wrong job. Door is there if you can't hack it.". He went on to demo the safety kit we HAD to use and my vertigo evaporated. That said if there was an unguarded height the chappy should have been using the work restraint system put in place or used fall arrest. The hardest bit is recognising the need especially in a confined space that might transform from a guarded walkway to a smaller crawlspace with crap lighting and an unrecognisable surface covered in 30 years of rubbish and dust.

                  There wasn't a procedure back then for us, we just held a mini maglight between our teeth and balanced on beams. I guess these days it would need a team of three, a written RA for the site and methodology and.. cost the customer lot more.

                  In residential, loft spaces cover a stairwell of several metres and would prove fatal drops. How many people use fall restraint kit hopping round their attic at home?

              3. PNGuinn
                Childcatcher

                Re: The three-week trial @ Jason 24

                First of all, everyone on here needs to be a lot more careful what they say UNTIL THIS COURT HEARING IS CONCLUDED.

                It's only too easy, especially sitting at a desk away from the court in blissful ignorance of any of the pertinent details, to unwittingly fall foul of contempt of court.

                Pissing off the judge is not clever, impeding justice even less so. Too easy to do without knowing all the facts.

                To your point - Health and safety is often largely based on experience and engineering judgement. In fact it always should be. Regardless of the regulations - which should be complied with - they can't cover every eventuality. They're often a bit pedantic and proscriptive - largely because they have to try to protect idiots and idiot managers, as well as those around them.

                In the end safety is in the hands of the operator - An engineer with 20 years experience has just that - a kid out of school does not.

                Several things could apply:

                The older man is used to laxer times and ways and has learned how far work safely with a little greater risk.

                The kid out of school (or uni) is still a bit green, doesn't have such a good head for heights and is feeling his way.

                He's just been on a H & S course and had s***t scared out of him.

                He's under a greater workload / lazy.

                The older guy knows / doesn't care all about suitability of cables in voids. the younger??

                Altitude on the day might be a giveaway.

          3. This post has been deleted by a moderator

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: The three-week trial

              Exactly.

              I find myself employed these days by a major owner/operator of British infrastructure (not BT I might add).

              We have loads of procedures in place to keep us safe, but we also have tight budgets and stressed managers.

              Safety above everything goes out the window when there's a panic on. Yes, we can refuse to carry out an unsafe task by following our procedures, and no, there will be no immediate consequences as long as we were justified. But you can bet your last that your name will be up in neon lights to every manager and will suddenly find itself making its way up redundancy lists (which are regular enough to be a constant threat). Find yourself in that situation more than once and you are branded a troublemaker.

              We don't know the pressures this worker was under and though it doesn't make it right, managers still put workers in bad positions.

              Anonymous, because I've potentially just slagged off the company that pays my mortgage.

              1. Triggerfish

                Re: The three-week trial @AC

                Yes when first reading the comments here. I though another thing always needed is a culture where workers are not penalised for turning round to their employers and refusing to work in dangerous conditons. I've also know managers who have let people go do unsafe job, because they do not get shit for turning the work down, and it's not them taking the risk, so failing duty of care due to pressure.

                On the other side I have also seen contractors take daft risks to get a job in and earn the money.

        4. Tom Samplonius

          Re: The three-week trial

          "But you can expect a company to make sure their employees are properly trained... give anyone who breaks the rules a bloody good bollocking rather than turning a blind eye"

          And what if they do break the rules? I just watched an installation contractor climb around on neighboring roof, when I know they are prohibited from going on any roofs at all. But they also had a customer on the ground badgering them to get their line fixed. Anything that requires access to a roof, requires them to call for a bucket truck.

          I'm surprised the installer (how is an installer an engineer in BT land?) didn't sue the property owner for having a defective roof. Supporting the weight of a single person for maintenance purposes is a design requirement for a roof. That is an obvious liability.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: The three-week trial

            "Supporting the weight of a single person for maintenance purposes is a design requirement for a roof. That is an obvious liability."

            Have you never seen a roof with signs that said "crawling boards must be used"?

            The roof will support the weight if proper procedures (preferably properly documented and advised procedures) are properly followed.

            Incidentally. companies like BT have technicians. They don't call them installers. Companies like BT have engineers too.

          2. Telboy

            Roof Strength

            When was this roof built? Did it require this design requirement when it was built? ( The roof on my house has been there since it was built in the 1840's, when I bought the house 20 years ago the surveyor said it was liable to fail at any minute and should be replaced as soon as possible, still the same roof I just have not got around to it. Can I sue the mortgage company for mis selling the mortgage against a dogy roof?)

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Roof Strength

              "the surveyor said it was liable to fail at any minute and should be replaced as soon as possible, still the same roof I just have not got around to it."

              Don't surveyors always say that (even when there's no engineering reality behind it) because it absolves them of any liability (or even bad feeling) if [the roof] does fail - after all, they warned you.

  2. Nigel 11

    More than reported here?

    I'd have expected BT to simply admit fault and pay compensation and any fine. I wonder what is their side of the argument, that makes it worth paying lawyers for three weeks when the degree of injury was not catastrophic?

    1. Peter 26

      Re: More than reported here?

      Standard Health and Safety in that situation is that you should have a Harness & Lanyard when working at height. I can't imagine a company the size of BT would have broke the law and skipped training on this. So maybe they it was common practice for engineers to skip this on roofs and BT never enforced it, therefore they would be at blame...

      1. Gideon 1

        Re: More than reported here?

        A fall while wearing a Harness & Lanyard can cause suspension trauma, which can be fatal if not rescued quickly enough. Do not use a harness while working alone.

        It has been Openreach policy for a while that their employees are not allowed to enter attics, maybe this incident was the cause? When they recently fixed my parents phone line, they left the cable dangling through an open window and left instructions for me to put it through the attic and connect it to the socket when I got back from work. It seems that these days if you want decent rural broadband you can upgrade the Openreach cable yourself ;)

        1. UnwittingAccomplice

          Suspension Trauma?

          Thought that was thoroughly discredited, my recent working at height course covered its non-existence quite well....

          1. MatelotJim

            Re: Suspension Trauma?

            It's not very well know and it's taught incorrectly but it does exist, it's not what many people think, not surprisingly Wikipedia is wrong as well. The trouble with the restraint and fall harnesses are that they are designed for climbing in, mainly with Y-shapes and a restraint strap so you can work hands free. Great if your up a mast or pole but if you fall and are suspended you sit in an awkward position and they're really not comfortable (trust me, done it) as the harnesses are designed differently to rock climbing harnesses. Eventually the circulation is cut off in your legs and you die of toxic shock. - Your friendly neighborhood rescue climber.

        2. d3vy Silver badge

          Re: More than reported here?

          "A fall while wearing a Harness & Lanyard can cause suspension trauma, which can be fatal if not rescued quickly enough. Do not use a harness while working alone."

          Are you being serious? Suspension trauma CAN be fatal, so you'd rather take the risk and hit the ground?

          By this logic car seatbelts CAN cause injury and entrapment in a crashed car... Let's take our chances by going through the windscreen instead..

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: More than reported here?

          More to the point, if the job needs a harness it is a two man job.

      2. boltar Silver badge

        Re: More than reported here?

        "So maybe they it was common practice for engineers to skip this on roofs and BT never enforced it, therefore they would be at blame..."

        Thats a bit like saying the police are to blame for someone dying in a car crash due to not wearing a seat belt because they didn't enforce the seatbelt law strictly enough.

        There comes a point at which people have to take personal responsibilty for their own actions.

        1. Peter 26

          Re: More than reported here?

          I'm not saying it's right, but that's the law. It's there for a reason though, to make sure that employers actually do enforce health and safety and therefore increase safety. If they do enforce it and the employee still doesn't do as told then I think BT will be in the clear.

          I'd imagine the reason this case will take 3 weeks is because they will be trying to prove they were enforcing it and this was one rogue employee, whereas the employee will be trying to say that wasn't the case which will require other people giving evidence etc.

        2. d3vy Silver badge

          Re: More than reported here?

          "Thats a bit like saying the police are to blame for someone dying in a car crash due to not wearing a seat belt because they didn't enforce the seatbelt law strictly enough"

          Not true, first of all the police do enforce that law and will pull any one caught doing it and fine them.

          In this case the company need to prove that they provided the training and equipment for the employee and did enforce good safe working practice's (IE reprimanding people not complying with policy).

      3. Bloakey1

        Re: More than reported here?

        "Standard Health and Safety in that situation is that you should have a Harness & Lanyard when working at height."

        <snip>

        I would put it to you that he was not working at height, well at least not until the tiles gave way and the void opened up.

        I am sure he probably had all the equipment but knew better. I miss the good old days when personal culpability was the rage and if you acted the idiot and got hurt it was your fault. Nowadays it is always the fault of others and before we know it we will have seat belts and airbags on our toilets, lest we should hurt ourselves in some unknown manner.

        1. Nigel 11

          Re: More than reported here?

          I miss the good old days when personal culpability was the rage and if you acted the idiot and got hurt it was your fault.

          Me too.

          But my question is, why are they spending on three weeks worth of lawyers, rather than what I suspect wuld be the considerably cheaper option of admitting "yes, not worth disputing this, our fault" and paying the fine and compensating the poor chap for his broken ankles, pain and suffering. (Do we have any equivalent of the USA's "no contest" in such proceedings? )

          If he'd been put in a wheelchair for life, then contesting it might have made financial sense.

          1. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge

            Re: More than reported here?

            "But my question is, why are they spending on three weeks worth of lawyers, rather than what I suspect wuld be the considerably cheaper option of admitting "

            Because, presumably, admitting liability means they'd have to change their practices, which would impact their profitability. Or it could just be because they're huge arses. But either way, it'll be about the bottom line.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: More than reported here?

            why are they spending on three weeks worth of lawyers, rather than what I suspect wuld be the considerably cheaper option of admitting "yes, not worth disputing this, our fault" and paying the fine and compensating the poor chap for his broken ankles

            Perhaps because they know it was the fault of the technician for not respecting his training, and they don't want to open the doors to a flood of complaints from other careless workers, encouraged by ambulance-chasing "personal injury" lawyers? We won't know until the trial starts.

            It's many years since I worked for BT, but their ongoing training for health & safety, and absolute insistence on safe working procedures, wasn't something I could ever have reproached them for. I still have my hard hat, and I've never worked anywhere but an IT office...

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: More than reported here?

          I miss the good old days when personal culpability was the rage and if you acted the idiot and got hurt it was your fault.

          You miss the good old days pre-HSE, when we killed about 400 people a year in workplace accidents? That's in my lifetime, I don't miss it.

          My employers recently had a workplace fatality. Without going into detail because it will undoubtedly go to court, the deceased was a subcontractor who did things that led directly to their death. But (in my view, and my company's) it isn't acceptable these days to allow people to hurt themselves. If they are determined enough then it is very difficult to stop them - but there should be every detail of training, equipment, due process, planning, supervision in place to avoid accidents (and for that matter to protect employees mental wellbeing). If it is a papercut you might say "meh", but if it is a serious injury or fatality, then there is always more that could have been done - but its now too late.

          There's family, friends, colleagues grieving for a young man, probably with minimal educational attainment who was killed whilst simply trying to do a not very well paid job. Is it really OK to say "he brought it upon himself"?

          1. Nigel 11

            Re: More than reported here?

            Yes, I do miss those days. While recognising that it might have been rather different for the blue-collar staff and that we may have diffrerent contexts. I've actually been on H&S committees dealing with the serious risks and incidents, and that's good stuff done by good people. But the bureaucracy about the trivia is stultifying.

            When I started working, if a light tube started flickering, I grabbed another one from electrical stores, grabbed the department's footstool, and changed the tube. Exactly the same as I'd do at home. If I'd somehow managed to hurt myself it would have been my fault, whether at work or at home. Situation was different if someone had ordered me to change the tube and I didn't feel safe or didn't feel that I had adequate know-how. That's one reason for unions.

            Today, I'd have to phone the electricians, and then myself and colleagues would be unable to work until several hours later when an officially-trained sparks arrived and did exactly what's I'd have done for myself at home. In the meantime the health and safety rules actually create a risk of inducing an epileptic fit in someone who is flicker-sensitive but does not (yet) know it.

            Another example, a few years ago myself and colleagues were banned from installing or removing anything in the equipment racks in the server room until the organisational database showed that we had attended the H&S course on "manual handling". Who do they imagine had installed everything in those racks in the first place with no injury worse than a tiny cut caused by a sharp metal edge? Which these days would be a "reportable incident". I don't think one in a hundred would bother reporting "needed a plaster to stop any blood dripping into a server", but that's probably a disciplinary offense! Also, something not covered on the manual handling course. I suspect I'd missed the course on "correct treatment and follow-up form-filling for trivially minor workplace injuries such as paper cuts".

            It used to be a culture of "can do" and "use your initiative". Now it's "follow the rules" and "you aren't paid to think about anything except what we pay you to think about". It's not an improvement, and in fact was one facet of why I left that employer for a small company where people are still people not "human resources".

            1. Ol' Grumpy

              Re: More than reported here?

              You sound like the vast majority of people who just want to get on and get things done but I suspect these days businesses have to be extremely mindful of the litigious culture that seems to be sweeping across the country. You only have to tune in to some of the backwater TV channels to see the amount of "claims for workplace accident" companies doing the rounds and so everyone's day is made longer because these processes have to be put in place.

              1. Triggerfish

                Re: More than reported here? @Old Grumpy

                everyone's day is made longer because these processes have to be put in place.

                Trust me not much is as long as the few minutes trying to keep someone alive while an ambulance comes. (internal bleeding from being hit by a skip that was shunted backwards after being hit by a unregulated forklift going to fast).

            2. PNGuinn
              Flame

              Re: More than reported here? @ Nigel

              "Now it's "follow the rules" and "you aren't paid to think about anything except what we pay you to think about""

              Which is the flip side of Health and Safety. We're all getting so specialised in our qualifications and legal limitations that we increasingly have no idea how the other fellow's job should be done, and unwittingly create hazards that our forebears would have seen as obvious.

              "Someone Else's Problem" is no good for safety, productivity or job satisfaction.

              The HSE is generally pretty on the ball with the idea of workplace safety and regulation.

              Ignorant H & S dweebs who have no idea of life at the coalface trying to work up their egos / promotions applying their own pet rules regardless ...

              My favourite was the building site worker disciplined for removing his goggles at top of some scaffolding to wipe them 'cause they had misted up and he was effectively blind. Was hold he should have made his way along the scaffold boards and down the ladders (blind) and wiped 'em at ground level. Personally I'd have wanted to drag the idiot dweeb up to the top by his bloody tie, blindfolded him with it and watched him make his way down. (Of course I'd have given him a hard hat - I'm not mean like the BOFH.)

          2. boltar Silver badge

            Re: More than reported here?

            "But (in my view, and my company's) it isn't acceptable these days to allow people to hurt themselves"

            And that sums up the child like mentality of people today who also want to treat everyone else like children.

            "Is it really OK to say "he brought it upon himself"?"

            Frankly, yes. Natural selection's a bitch.

            1. hplasm Silver badge
              WTF?

              Re: More than reported here?

              "Frankly, yes. Natural selection's a bitch."

              And frankly, should your number come up, I imagine you won't be missed.

              1. boltar Silver badge

                Re: More than reported here?

                "And frankly, should your number come up, I imagine you won't be missed."

                Don't worry, you'll probably go before I do. I won't be sending flowers.

            2. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: More than reported here?

              And that sums up the child like mentality of people today who also want to treat everyone else like children.

              Not really. It sums up the mentality of people who think that this is a modern, civilised society where employees have every right to be able to go to work and come home in one piece. Your Darwinian approach to safety at work suggests you're commenting from the year 1870.

              Perhaps you should go back to reading the Daily Mail, they like a good "elf and safety gawn mad" story?

              1. boltar Silver badge

                Re: More than reported here?

                "Perhaps you should go back to reading the Daily Mail,"

                I did wonder how long it would be before some hanky flapping ponce mentioned it in their cliche ridden putdown. There should be an equivalent of Godwins Law for it.

                1. Anonymous Coward
                  Anonymous Coward

                  Re: More than reported here? @boltar

                  I did wonder how long it would be before some hanky flapping ponce....

                  Perhaps you should review my posting history. I think I probably qualify as a libertarian right wing quasi borderline extremist. But unlike you, I have considerable respect for all strata of society. I'm only here to write this because somebody working unsocial hours for a low wage, in a high vis jacket installed and maintains the armco on the central reservation of motorways. And that's the thing that I know about. There's undoubtedly other protective actions I haven't event thought about.

                  We're a big company. More than E100bn turnover, we held a two minute silence across Europe for the poor beggar that died on our account. Our CEO attended the funeral. You might say what good is all that, the point is that we do care. Morale took a huge hit. All involved were left thinking "what could I have done to stop that?". There's a huge investigation to try and learn every possible lesson.

                  But you, mate, apparently don't care. As long as your shiney is delivered cheaply, you won't care about the poor beggars many times less fortunate than you who have to produce it. The people who keep this world running cleaning toilets; maintaining armco in the night; preparing food; cleaning sewers, and so forth. Judging you on your expressed opinions, you, boltar, aren't fit to lick dogshit of the soles of everyday people. I thank them, and I want them to be able to do their job safely.

                  THAT apparently is the difference between you and me. You CUNT.

                  1. boltar Silver badge

                    Re: More than reported here? @boltar

                    "But you, mate, apparently don't care"

                    No , I don't. And nor do most people if they were honest rather than putting on a facade for show. FWIW I've done crap menial jobs when I was younger, have you?

                    "You CUNT."

                    Aww, poppet, don't get all worked up. Stress can lead to workplace accidents you know.

                    1. sed gawk

                      Re: More than reported here? @boltar

                      Your original point about taking responsibility is buried under the refusal to countenance the idea, that it might possible, given the preponderance of evidence, be this poor chap's fault.

                      I'm not given to being a bleeding heart myself, but frankly, the tone of your comments suggests your opinion is not swayed by where the responsibility lies.

                      I've been put under pressure to do things that where unsafe, exploitative, and on one memorable occasion blatantly illegal. I'm happy to tell *anyone* where to stick it under these circumstances, but not everyone can make that choice every time, and it's just contemptible to deny that reality in such an prurient fashion.

            3. Just Enough

              Re: More than reported here?

              "Frankly, yes. Natural selection's a bitch."

              You're all heart. Unfortunately this argument, while sounding appealing and all grown-up, is exactly what companies abused for centuries. The argument would go like;

              - This job could be dangerous, we could make it safer but that would be costly/time consuming.

              - Fortunately we'll always manage to find someone who needs the money and will do it.

              - Then when it goes wrong, it's their fault, no-one forced them, they did it to themselves.

              - Replace the corpse with another sucker and carry on.

            4. d3vy Silver badge

              Re: More than reported here?

              "And that sums up the child like mentality of people today who also want to treat everyone else like children."

              I don't let my children on the roof without harnesses.

          3. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

            Re: More than reported here?

            > every detail of training, equipment, due process, planning, supervision in place to avoid accidents

            Tell me about it - OldestBrother owns a (proper) tree surgery comany. He spends far too much time (far more than is legally required because he actually cares about his staff) doing H&S training & courses and risk assessment/mitigation.

            Even to the extent of giving someone their marching orders for consistently failing to wear proper protective gear, even after a series of warnings.

            Makes me glad I work in a nice warm, non-moving office where the biggest threat is tripping over an ethernet cable..

            1. x 7 Silver badge

              Re: More than reported here?

              "Even to the extent of giving someone their marching orders for consistently failing to wear proper protective gear, even after a series of warnings."

              He'd have to do that to protect himself. If there was an accident, your brother could still be deemed liable, and the insurance validity could be in question

            2. d3vy Silver badge

              Re: More than reported here?

              "Makes me glad I work in a nice warm, non-moving office where the biggest threat is tripping over an ethernet cable.."

              Those cables should be covered. ;)

            3. Nigel 11

              Re: More than reported here?

              Makes me glad I work in a nice warm, non-moving office where the biggest threat is tripping over an ethernet cable..

              Which is completely inexcusable (if you aren't being facetious). Trip hazards are the number one cause of nontrivial office-environment injuries. Tell them to get longer cables and/or properly placed outlets, so that no cables are strung across places people walk. Do this before somebody trips and is hospitalized.

              If you are obstructed by some sort of penny-pinching or IT-rule-following, this is the time that your Health and Safety department or person comes in useful. Or the union, if its that sort of workplace.

            4. Dyspeptic Curmudgeon

              Re: More than reported here?

              "Makes me glad I work in a nice warm, non-moving office where the biggest threat is tripping over an ethernet cable..":

              HAVE YOU BEEN INJURED IN A WORKPLACE ACCIDENT BY TRIPPING OVER AN ETHERNET CABLE?

              HI I'm LARCEN E. WHIPSNADE, one of the trail lawyers at Dewey Cheatem and Howe LLP and I can help you recover the damages to which you are entitled! Your injuries are important to us! Do not suffer in silence any longer. Contact us now! And remember, you don't pay a cent until we recover for you. Contact us at contingencyfeesarefirst@do-we-cheat.com!

          4. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

            Re: More than reported here?

            Is it really OK to say "he brought it upon himself"?

            Of course not, but neither is it OK to say "someone has to pay". Sometimes all you can do is recognise that processes need to change in the future to stop it happening again.

        3. JC_

          Re: More than reported here?

          I miss the good old days when personal culpability was the rage and if you acted the idiot and got hurt it was your fault.

          When the 'hurt' is abstract then it's easy to be a bit heartless, but see it up close and it's hard to keep that attitude. An uncle of mine was squashed by a shipping container while working at a port; it was partially his fault and partially the port-operator's, but the death was entirely his.

          One of my lecturers at uni showed the class a series of pictures of industrial accidents - the one that sticks was the girl with a pony-tail who was scalped when her hair was caught up in the engine of a go-kart - and the point was clear: health and safety laws are there for very, very good reasons.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: More than reported here?

            One of my lecturers at uni showed the class a series of pictures of industrial accidents - the one that sticks was the girl with a pony-tail who was scalped when her hair was caught up in the engine of a go-kart

            Some 30+ years ago I was in a group of new hires on an H&S training course. We were told a story of somone who was nailing the lid on a shipping crate with a "Hilti" gun, when the gun slipped and the fired nail rebounded into his face. Fortunately for him he was wearing the correct polycarbonate goggles, and we saw a photo of the nail, embedded 1/4" through the lens, absolutely dead centre.

            The impact of the goggles against his face gave him a black eye that looked like he'd gone a few rounds with Mike Tyson, but without those goggles he'd probably have been killed on the spot.

            That image remains with me today, and I still always have a set of goggles to hand in my garage when I'm working.

        4. Anonymous Blowhard

          Re: More than reported here?

          " I miss the good old days when personal culpability was the rage and if you acted the idiot and got hurt it was your fault."

          Well those days never ended in the UK "contributory negligence" is still part of UK law and damages are still calculated based on this- if it's 90% your fault, then you get 10% of the damages.

          1. Triggerfish

            Re: More than reported here?

            I miss the good old days when personal culpability was the rage and if you acted the idiot and got hurt it was your fault.

            I don't I have sent guys into sites and its my job to check there is not asbestos, I have sent people up mobile phone mast it's my job to make sure the towers switched off.

            Personal culpability is all well and good and I absolutely agree with it, someone should be able to say they are not going to work in unsafe conditions. But it's also up to the company to make sure they do not go in under equipped, under trained and unaware of the dangers they may have, it's also my job to make sure they have the time to do it safely without hassle and without pressure.

        5. PNGuinn
          FAIL

          Re: More than reported here?

          "I miss the good old days when personal culpability was the rage"

          That's all fine and dandy if it's only your neck that is at stake, and it's truly YOUR choice to do something daft.

          The problem is that: (a) Other people around get hurt. (b) Employer wants it done NOW and bugger safety. (c) Employer won't / "can't afford" safety equipment. (d) Ditto proper training.

          The real world is nasty. And full of idiots and beancounters.

    2. Roland6 Silver badge

      Re: More than reported here?

      "I'd have expected BT to simply admit fault and pay compensation and any fine."

      The case is being brought by the HSE, hence from the information that has been released, the case is all about determining whether BT were negligent and/or their HSE practises were deficient and hence what the fine might be.

      Hence this isn't so much about this specific case, but that this case has flagged a potential failing in BT's H&S policy across the entire company and hence BT were putting lone working engineers at risk.

      As for compensation, the incident happened in May-2011, hence any legal claim for compensation would have been started within 3 years of that date. However, gven "He shattered both ankles and suffered serious damage to his back", I would not be surprised if his solicitor got an initial settlement with a reassessment/final settlement after a number of years, specifically after the HSE complete their investigations.

  3. Andy Non
    Coat

    Typical BT

    Leaving people hanging on.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Typical BT

      Cue Blondie, hanging on the telephone.

  4. Tezfair
    Unhappy

    I broke my ankle back in 2014 and it's still painful and limits my ability to walk (2 miles is my limit before the pain is unbareable) or climb ladders etc. Basically this engineer is now a deskjocky. I hope he gets / got a decent payout as his life will be radically changed. Mine certainly was.

    1. boltar Silver badge

      No offense mate, but if you can walk 2 miles I don't really see how your life can have been "radically changed" unless your previous career was as a marathon runner. Plenty of out of condition non disabled in this country would have trouble walking that far. I'd reserve that phrase for someone who ended up in a wheelchair.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        As someone who relies on walking to summon the very best of my creative thinking, being limited to a painful two miles would be life changing to me. We're not all couch-potatoes.

      2. Tezfair

        no offence taken, however imagine a job where you are standing most of the day, maybe walking around offices, up and down corridors / stairs. Lugging equipment or when on call, walking from carparks to offices. 2 miles might not seem far but over a day that is exceeded so I have to now pace myself.

        1. boltar Silver badge

          "no offence taken, however imagine a job where you are standing most of the day, maybe walking around offices, up and down corridors / stairs. Lugging equipment or when on call, walking from carparks to offices. 2 miles might not seem far but over a day that is exceeded so I have to now pace myself."

          Fair enough , I thought you meant 2 miles in one go. 2 miles in a whole day is another matter.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Hey Boltar:

            Isn't it funny how knowing the context of a situation like this can change your opinion?

            Up at the top of the comments you're full of "its natural selection" and "just be more careful" but now that we've heard from someone who has actually experienced an injury your tone seems to have changed into something a little more balanced and accepting.

            it is so often the way. When it's "other people" who cares, but when it is a specific person you have to face, it's a different matter.

            health and safety legislation is massively misunderstood. It rarely stops you doing anything, it just asks that you stop and think about the possible consequences of your actions and that you are as prepared as you can be to avoid accident or injury.

            i really don't see what is unereasonable about that...

          2. splodge

            Fair enough , I thought you meant 2 miles in one go. 2 miles in a whole day is another matter.

            It's ok, it's obvious you type your replies before thinking

            1. BurnT'offering

              Re:It's ok, it's obvious you type your replies before thinking

              It's also hard to empathise with someone falling off a ladder when you live under a bridge

              1. Richard 120

                Re: Re:It's ok, it's obvious you type your replies before thinking

                @BurnT'offering

                Very good, I see what you did there :)

      3. Triggerfish

        Not being able to walk two miles is pretty important Boltar, people might not be able to do it because of their lifestyle, thats their choice. Being not able to do it due to injury would be different. I can quite easily walk several miles and while I do not often, it's handy to do so. I dunno why it is that you do not think legs should be useful working things to you, but mostly the rest of us like them to be functioning properly.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Questions to be asked/answered

    1) did the employee have appropriate training to work on a roof?

    2) did they have the correct safety kit available to them?

    3) Did they use it?

    4) Did they do a proper risk assesment before starting work on the roof?

    This will be interesting to see what happens. It has implications for many of us who install/repair kit in buildings. Think of all those roof/ceiling mounted WiFi access points....

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Questions to be asked/answered

      This is probably what the trial is actually about.

      Also it may be that the structure was unsound, unknown to BT and the Engineer, therefore BT may not believe they are liable, but the landlord.

    2. Roger Greenwood

      Re: Questions to be asked/answered

      "proper risk assesment"

      As per UK HSE rules, the fact that the accident happened is proof that the risk assessment or associated control measures were not adequate. The court case is therefore to apportion blame and penalties.

      1. Killing Time

        Re: Questions to be asked/answered

        'As per UK HSE rules, the fact that the accident happened is proof that the risk assessment or associated control measures were not adequate'

        I don't believe that is the case. Certainly not when I did my NEBOSH certificate.

        A risk assessment and subsequently identified control measures along with a whole host of other requirements and best practices, are tools required to be used as part of an employers Health and Safety management strategy. This should comply with the POPMAR mnemonic ( policy, organisation,planning,management,audit and review). RA, Procedures, Guidance and Best Practice etc are part of the management section.

        The victim's brief will challenge the employers compliance in all areas and the burden of proof is on the employer. Subsequently, blame is apportioned dependent on their compliance and any negligence from either party. The RA is just one small part of the overall challenge.

        Accidents DO happen, however full compliance with all the above is deemed to reduce the probability as far as reasonably practicable.

        However, in the real world, no one appears to achieve full compliance therefore 'where there is blame there is a claim'.

        Had to do that course as a requirement of my employer, not out of choice and never pursued it any further but after some years I finally found a use for for that info....

  6. Chris Hawkins
    FAIL

    Not Funny

    OK

    I have some sympathy with the guy, having dislocated my foot 3 years ago after a ladder collapsed under me and I fell 3 metres while trying to install a network cable.

    Bl**dy painful!

    It was my own stupid fault. I know all the safety regs but there was an urgent job needed doing and no one else around.

    The client at least came to see me the next day in hospital, clutching an envelope!

    My comment "Is that the invoice for the hole I made in your patio"? ;)

    I'm self-employed so it was a bit costly for a few months!

    1. ShadowDragon8685

      Re: Not Funny

      Be glad you were in the UK, mate. On top of not having any income for a few months, over here 'th left side of the pond, you'd probably be looking at a $4,000-$8,000 hospital bill atop that.

  7. Richard Jones 1
    WTF?

    There was a Time

    In the pre BT days, possibly when dinosaurs still roamed the earth that safety equipment was very much in vogue within the BT predecessor. They would get very grumpy if you injured yourself at home because you did not use suitable safety equipment. You could even borrow available safety items at one point. The suggestion was that they would rather allow you to follow safety processes all the time than have you off work because of an avoidable injury at home. I think this mainly applied to goggles, helmets and gloves.

    Anyone remember the YZ club?

    1. Roland6 Silver badge

      Re: There was a Time

      I think in those days BT followed the "practise makes permanent" philosophy and hence wanted their engineers to make adherence to good working practises a permanent part of their life.

    2. PNGuinn
      Joke

      Re: There was a Time

      "possibly when dinosaurs still roamed the earth"

      Aren't BT still in business?

  8. PaulAb

    I remember some years ago..

    being on a data cabling course, it was the HS component about ladders and height etc and the instructor talked about the correct ladder for each situation. An engineer then said "All our high back vans exceed that working height should we carry another ladder of the correct type and not use the fixed van ladder at the rear". Next to him sat his manager who promptly said "That's not going to happen". They worked for BT.

    1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: I remember some years ago..

      correct ladder for each situation

      Like this one:

      http://www.highfield.co.uk/x/i/hoh/health-safety/equipmemt/ladder7.jpg

      The others at http://www.highfield.co.uk/house-of-horrors/health-safety/index.php are worrth viewing as well...

  9. Sgt_Oddball Silver badge

    Out of curiosity....

    What about the owners of the property?

    Did the place have any warnings about the roof being fragile? What about having safe access via suspended gangways? Or even access to maintained and certified anchor points for a safety harness?

    If the roof allowed easy access but gave no warning as to it's structural handling capacity then surely it would be assumed to be capable of carrying the weight of one fully grown adult, if not then the roof it's self and the thus the owners of the building would be at fault as opposed to a company that may well have informed it's employee to heed warnings (which we do not know if those warnings where in place or not).

  10. Anotherother

    HSE

    I'm sure someone with more knowledge that me in this area could clarify better but don't the HSE now look at the potential injuries that could have occurred in a given case, had this guy not been so lucky?

    In which case BT could be facing large fines on their group's annual turnover rather than just the comp this chap's lawyers would be after.

    Admitting liability could be much more costly than the lawyers fees.

  11. x 7 Silver badge

    careful chaps......don't forget this is now sub judice and not really up for public discussion until the trial ends.

    On a more generic note though......what is the current "accepted safe practice" for walking on tiled roofs? Scaffold? Crawling boards?

    I still have memories from falling through the asbestos roof of a large pigsty when I was aged 12......the bloody pigs rushed straight at me looking hungry. I jumped straight back up through that hole in the roof, god only knows how. Cut my shin to the bone - I still have scars on it now. I think I was lucky that day

    1. Chris G Silver badge

      Reading Comprehension

      A lot of comments here about ROOFing tiles, the article and the report in the Court News both mention falling through ceiling tiles; "BT engineer plunged seven metres below onto a concrete stairwell after crashing through ceiling tiles, a court heard today (Mon)."

      So, the chap was most likely working in a loft space where often there are only joists to stand on or (frequently) old chip board panels.

      I am guessing he misstepped and went through the ceiling over the stair well and managed to hang on to the joists for a while.

      A loft space would mean it would be unlikely for the engineer to be wearing a fall arrest harness and even if he were there may have been no obvious places to attach to.

      The usual practice in loft spaces where it is necessary to spend any reasonable amount of time doing a job is to put in crawl boards,if this was a relatively quick job that was probably not part of the job plan so I can see where there may be arguments back and forth as to what would construe the relevant 'safe working practice' and who was to blame.

      It may turn out that this is something of a test case for the HSE to establish a procedure in what could be a grey area.

      I still have occasion to go up and down ladders carrying stuff and I find a harness etc more of a liability than a help but then I have spent the last 49 years working and learning how to work safely without such things, if all you know is based on modern safe working practice, then you should do it, working on heights, there is no learning the hard way, once you have learnt it is too late.

  12. djberriman

    Where will it end

    Trouble is this is now filtering down to sport, as of this year we now have to have a safety plan for every event which is 'vetted' by our national governing body (how I don't quite know as I don't think they are qualified to do so and often won't ever have visited site), we have always had risk assessments, and we do dynamic risk assessments on the day and are trained first aiders and rescuers etc. but now we have to have a volunteer safety officer to manage and follow the plan during the event. It's another nail in the coffin of being a volunteer who already have to have undertake numerous courses every 3 years just to turn up and try and encourage youngsters to get active.

    1. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: Where will it end

      "Trouble is this is now filtering down to sport"

      Sports are one of the major areas where people have life-changing injuries - and not just the obvious stuff like broken necks in rugby scrums.

      My brother has an artificial knee as a direct result of playing football at school - unsupervised at lunchtime - a bad tackle pretty much destroyed the joint, despite major surgery to repair it and after 40 years of pain he finally had to have it replaced.

  13. andy 103

    unable to CALL for help

    "he was unable to CALL for help"

    Oh, the irony.

  14. TJ1
    Joke

    And his colleague is still there, waiting for him!

    Warning: black humour!

    See Streetview: https://goo.gl/maps/z7WUjxGdXdN2

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Sub judice

    Its already been said, but I'll repeat it

    This case is still ongoing and so is subject to sub judice rules

    Speculating about the facts of the case, or pushing a line of write/wrong could well land the website in legal problems for contempt of court.

    1. sed gawk

      Re: Sub judice

      No one has speculated about the facts, only made allusions to their own personal experiences, and generally chewed over the general principle of H & S.

      In other words, back under your bridge

  16. Nick London
    Coat

    Not so funny.

    Can't comment on this case as I have no knowledge, but am appalled at some of the above comments.

    Falls from roofs are one of the major causes of death and injury at work in the UK and often affect people who would not consider themselves construction workers.

    People have died falling less far than this unfortunate person did.

    A worker leaving for work in the morning is entitled to return home uninjured, and with their health unimpaired, after their days work.

    There are specific Working at Heights Regulations. They apply to all undertakings. (With a couple of exceptions, merchant seamen and caving/climbing instructors) including the self employed.

    The Regulations http://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2005/735/contents/made

    The Guidance http://www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/indg401.pdf

    So if you don't fancy standing in the dock....

    1. Tim Brown 1

      Re: Not so funny.

      I have a house in rural France and around here nobody seems to have heard or care about H&S rules.

      It's common to see people working on steeply pitched roofs without any safety equipment whatsoever.

      There's one old boy who works on his own with a van and a long ladder repairing roof tiles. He was at a house across from me last year and it made me feel quite queasy to see him going up on the roof all on his own, even climbing the ladder one-handed as he held on to a stack of new tiles on his shoulder with the other.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Not so funny.

        "around here nobody seems to have heard or care about H&S rules."

        Things are different in France.

        Wasn't it France Telecom that had a wave of work-related suicides in 2009, and then as if one wasn't bad enough, their successor Orange (or was it EE by then) had a second outbreak in 2014?

  17. Rob Daglish

    More info needed

    I appreciate it's sub-judice for the time being, but I hope el Reg are going to follow this up? At the moment, it really does feel like we don't know the full story, especially why he was on a roof seemingly without adequate equipment?

    From the linked story, the guy was working at a flat on St Stephen's Road, Bow - a quick look on Google Maps suggests I wouldn't be keen on being on top of any of those buildings...

  18. Bibbit

    Worth following

    Having worked in the private sector in surveying, often on quarries I had to have CSCS card, enclosed/at height/excavation areas training, PPE training, lone working. And the HSE reps at my work were proper barrack-room lawyers: I would be surprised if even BT were not H&S conscious. My gut instinct is this guy wanted to get the job crossed off and just went "screw the manual and the nanny state" but BT could really be that rubbish. I shall be interested to see how this pans out.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Hook up or fall down

    The rules for "above" work in Germany required harness wearing when closer than one-meter to the edge above a fall of more than one-meter.

    There's some other meta data--this happened in 2011! And it is being litigated in Criminal court. Who is in the dock? A supervisor or manager? Did they tell the engineer that it was safe, or had to be done, right now "Don't need to go back to the truck for the harness????

  20. Stevie Silver badge

    Bah!

    Oh for Azathoth's sake! The point of nanny laws s not just the protection of the stupid, it's the protection of everyone else from the fallout of the stupid.

    The idiot who sets his corpse on fire by not turning off the electricity before touching the high-voltage line also burns down the building containing sensible people who never even knew the dimwit was there.

    The brainless twat who shoots someone else's child in the eye with a pellet gun. I could go on but there are as many illustrative examples in the world as you wish to notice.

    Am I the only one who watches YouTube just to see the looks of outraged disbelief on the faces of kids who reap the inevitable rewards of riding a unicycle down the handrail of a twenty foot flight of concrete steps?

    Turns out you most cemrtainly do have to tell some people. Judging by teh intarwebs, you have to tell most of 'em.

  21. Phrimmy

    Take a leaf out of Sky

    I recently had my LNB replaced on my satelite dish wish is wall mounted at a height of a couple of metres and the Sky engineer drilled into the wall to tie his ladder off with all his safety gear including hard hat, harness etc.

    For dishes mounted on roofs Sky will never send a single engineer, they always insist on 2 engineers from their "special heights" team.

    In the aerial industry though some aerial installers will do roof installs on their own so there is obviously some interpretation going on of what is safe / unsafe practice.

    1. Roland6 Silver badge

      Re: Take a leaf out of Sky

      " there is obviously some interpretation going on of what is safe / unsafe practice."

      Suspect, given how long it has taken the HSE to decide to take BT to court, that this might be one of the arguments that the court is being asked to resolve, particularly as lone working is very common.

    2. Triggerfish

      Re: Take a leaf out of Sky

      Money, Sky are doing it right. The installers are not, but I have seen lots of contractors who take risks because it's cheaper and being self employed it's cash. I've had a call after a contractor went on to a closed building site to run some cable (if he had an accident no one would have known for for the whole night), fair to say the site manager was pretty pissed, rightly so, I was as well.

  22. hi_robb

    He couldn't call for help!

    Can you imagine the conversation if he'd managed to get his phone out his pocket and call his bosses.

    BT Guy: "I'd like to be put through to someone with a ladder please, be quick!!"

    Operator: "Ok Sir, please hang on...."

  23. SImon Hobson Silver badge

    I witnessed what I considered to be unreasonably unsafe working from the office a little while ago. It wasn't just me, there are some engineering companies in the building too - with people who do know what they are talking about - and they were clearly concerned as well. In the end I phoned the company who's building it was, and put my concerns to their H&S officer - and left it with him to "step outside and take a look for yourself". Half an hour later the guys were off the roof, and returned a couple of days later with some safety gear.

    When I posted on a forum, it was "disappointing" to see how many people took the attitude expressed by one or two people here - how dare anyone get in the way of someone killing themself if they want to.

    http://www.diynot.com/diy/threads/to-say-or-not-to-say-that-is-the-question.451972/

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