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£2m fine for National Grid over canal death of Robbie, 11

Published 08/12/2015

The fine was handed out at Preston Crown Court
The fine was handed out at Preston Crown Court

National Grid has been fined £2 million after a schoolboy died after he was able to clamber across an exposed gas pipe.

Robbie Williamson, 11, slipped and fell from the cast iron pipe running over the Leeds and Liverpool Canal before hitting his head on the canal banking and plunging into the water.

At Preston Crown Court National Grid Gas plc was ordered to pay the seven-figure sum after admitting the safety failings.

Robbie, from Burnley, Lancashire, and his two friends had been crossing the pipeline running on the outside of Dugdale Bridge at Lowerhouse Lane, Burnley, on April 22 2014.

Prosecutors for the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) said that the company had failed to properly protect the exposed pipeline from the risk of injury from falls from the pipeline.

The gas distributor pleaded guilty to breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and must also pay £36,102.90 in costs.

Robbie, who had only just started secondary school, along with his friends were able to climb onto the pipe from a ramped footpath because there had been no access prevention measures fitted.

The court heard National Grid Gas plc employ a procedure for inspecting above ground pipe crossing with requirements for providing measures to prevent access.

But records had incorrectly shown that the pipe was buried within the bridge meaning the crossing had not been subject to any inspections and despite maintenance work being carried out in the past, records had not been updated.

Robbie was taken to Royal Blackburn Hospital but died later that day.

His cause of death was recorded as drowning and a head injury.

Following the tragedy, steel "fans" were fitted to the pipe crossing after a HSE improvement notice was issued.

HSE Inspector Ian Redshaw said: "This was a tragic accident which has had a devastating impact on Robbie's family and friends.

"The company failed to assess the risks associated with this pipe to members of the public, and as a result they had not put in place any measures to prevent or deter access onto the pipe. This was a significant cause in Robbie's death."

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