Firms fined after train cleaner electrocuted in St Leonards

West Marina Train Depot, St Leonards. SUS-140529-100420001
West Marina Train Depot, St Leonards. SUS-140529-100420001

A train company and cleaning firm have been fined more than £3.5m after a worker was electrocuted on the railway.

Roger Lower, 46, a father-of-two, died instantly after falling on a 750-volt live rail during his shift at West Marina Depot in St Leonards on May 24, 2014.

He had been washing down trains and was employed by Wetton Cleaning Services Limited.

On Friday (November 17), Guildford Crown Court heard Mr Lower had arrived for his night shift a little after 10pm before starting work cleaning the sides of trains with colleagues. Later that night, he was found lying on the live rail and, although emergency services were called, they were unable to save his life.

The depot is operated by London and Southeastern (LSER).

Cleaners at the depot were supposed to be protected from the live rail by protection boards but Office of Rail and Road (ORR) inspectors found none of the four boards present in this location was in use. Inspectors found all of them were leaning against buffers, away from the scene of the tragedy.

The ORR’s investigation revealed health and safety failures by both Wettons and LSER, in contravention of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.

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.”

LSER was fined £2.5m and Wettons, £1.1m. They were ordered to pay costs of £162,000 each.

David Statham, managing director at Southeastern, said: “We deeply regret that we did not prevent the death of Roger Lower, a Wettons cleaner working on one of our trains in May 2014. Our thoughts remain with his family for their tragic loss.

“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.”