Rail freight firm DB Cargo fined £2.7million after boy was electrocuted and lost two limbs in site incident

Picture c/o Google Streetview
Picture c/o Google Streetview

A rail freight company has been fined £2.7million after a child was electrocuted and lost two limbs at one of its sites.

DB Cargo UK Ltd were convicted of breaching health and safety after the boy suffered life changing injuries when he entered Tyne Yard in Birtley with three friends on June 14, 2014.

He was set on fire and fell to the ground after he climbed onto the top of a wagon and got too close to a 25,000-volt live overhead wire.

After a four-week trial last year, it was found that the defendant company failed to ensure that non-employees were not exposed to risks to their health and safety through its activities.

Judge Stephen Earl today fined the firm £2.7million and ordered it to pay £188,873 costs.

After the hearing, the company’s Head of Safety and Operations, David Ethell, said: "First and foremost we would like to say that our thoughts are with the young man who was injured in this unfortunate accident. We wish him and his family well as they manage his ongoing rehabilitation and care.

"We would also take this opportunity to reiterate DB Cargo UK's commitment to safety. Since this incident back in 2014, we have made improvements to the safety and security of sites across the UK to significantly reduce the risk of public trespass.

"This has involved decommissioning redundant buildings and improving fencing, as well as renewing site signage.

"We will continue to work with the Office of Rail and Road and other industry stakeholders to raise greater public awareness of the potential dangers of trespass at operational sites and on the wider rail network," he added.

Ian Prosser, HM Chief Inspector of Railways, said: "Our thoughts remain with the victim who suffered such awful injuries, the other children injured and traumatised, and also their families and friends who will have been deeply affected by this harrowing incident.

"We welcome the sentence which clearly indicates the seriousness with which this offence is viewed and we expect DB Cargo and the rail industry as a whole to look very hard at their sites and make sure they are doing everything possible to ensure they are secure.

"This incident is a reminder to adults and children that railway sites can have many dangers, often not obvious, and that trespass on railway premises can lead to serious injuries."

During the trial, prosecutor Gordon Menzies told the court how the company should have carried out further measures to ensure that trespassers could not get on to the site.

He said the site was filled with dangerous hazards, including live overhead wires and uncovered manholes.

He said: "There was not a single fence or credible obstacle to prevent these children from getting into the yard and being exposed to the risks.

"The prosecution say this was inappropriate. The prosecution's position is that that was no credible obstacle and this was an obvious trespassing breach.

"The defendant failed to ensure its boundaries."

The court heard that DB Cargo (UK) Ltd was fully aware that the site attracted trespassers, shown by the presence of graffiti on buildings, fly tipping and vandalism, and reports of drinking and drug taking there.

One of the four children told investigators that for a period 'she used to go every day'.

The investigation also showed that there was not a single fence or gate stopping people leaving a public bridleway and walking onto the yard.

Furthermore, there was no security patrol and no warning signs to deter trespassers at their point of entry.

DB Cargo (UK) Ltd had noted in January 2013 that the signal box needed to be demolished because of the risks it presented.

A further inspection in April of that year awarded the signal box the highest possible risk rating and in May quotes had been obtained for demolition.

A further risk assessment in March 2014 confirmed the highest possible level of risk.

Despite this, the signal box wasn't demolished until October 2014 – four months after the incident.