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South West Water fined £1.8m after death of employee

24 April 2017

South West Water has been sentenced following the death of 54-year-old Robert Geach.

Truro Crown Court heard Mr Geach, a catchment operator, was working on the sand filtration unit of the Falmouth Waste Water Treatment Works on 30 December 2013 when a colleague discovered him face down in water. He died at the scene having drowned.

Mr Geach was last seen working on the top of the unit several hours before he was found by his colleague who was responding to the lone worker system. An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found the company failed to identify the risk of drowning with the maintenance activity which was undertaken by Mr Geach and his colleagues on a regular basis.

South West Water of Peninsula House, Rydon Lane, Exeter pleaded guilty of breaching Section 2 (1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, was fined £1.8million and ordered to pay costs of £41,607.71.

Speaking after the hearing HSE inspector Georgina Speake said: “This tragic case could have been prevented if the company had reduced the size of the hatch used to access the sand filters, and properly considered the hazards of the operation, including how close Mr Geach was to the water.

“Mr Geach was exposed to the risk of drowning which could have been easily been controlled if the task had been properly planned and simple measures adopted earlier which South West Water failed to do so adequately.”