BT Openreach Fined £1.34 Million For Health and Safety Offence 

LTB 196/24 – BT Openreach Fined £1.34 Million For Health and Safety Offence Following the Death of An Engineer

No. 196/24

6th June 2024

Dear Colleagues,

BT Openreach Fined £1.34 Million For Health and Safety Offence Following the Death of An Engineer

BT Openreach Limited has been fined £1.34 million after an engineer died whilst trying to repair a telephone line.

Alun Owen, from Bethesda, died after he slipped and fell into the River Aber in Abergwyngregyn and was swept away on 6 October 2020.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and North Wales Police, found that a number of BT Openreach engineers had been attempting to repair the telephone lines, which ran across the river, over a period of two months. They had been working both near and in the river.  At the time of the incident, there had been flooding in the area which meant the river was much higher and faster flowing than usual.

Alun Owen entered the water and made his way to an island in the middle of the river in order to try and throw a new telephone cable across to the other side by taping it to a hammer and then throwing the hammer.  Whilst attempting to cross the remaining section of the river, he slipped in a deep water and the force of the river swept him away to his death.

The HSE investigation found that there was no safe system of work in place for work on or near water, nor had Alun Owen and others working by the river – received training, information or instruction on safe working on or near water, as is required by law.

BT Openreach Limited pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2 (1) of the Health and Safety at work etc. Act 1974. The company was fined £1.34 million and ordered to pay costs of £15,858.35 at Llandudno Magistrates’ Court on 5 June 2024.

A HSE Spokesperson said in a statement after the Court hearing that this was a tragic incident that resulted in the death of a popular and much loved young man. The victim’s family, friends and colleagues have always remained in our thoughts. His death would have been preventable had an effective safe system of work for working on or near water been in place. The victim Mr Owen should not have been put in the unsafe working situation. Companies should learn the lessons from this incident if they have staff who may work on or near water and be aware that HSE will not hesitate to take appropriate enforcement action against those employers and companies that fall below the required standards.

A North Wales Police statement said that the Police worked closely with HSE and whilst it was a protracted and lengthy investigation, it was critical that any failings were identified and acted upon.

The prosecution was brought by HSE.

The HSE is Britain’s national regulator for workplace health and safety. The HSE aim to prevent work-related deaths, injuries and ill health through regulatory actions that range from influencing behaviours across industry sectors through to targeted interventions and enforcement action on companies and employers.

Section 2.1 of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 outlines the general duties of employers toward their workforce.  Under this section of the law employers must ensure the health, safety and welfare of their employees while at work.

This duty extends to both physical and mental well-being. The employer must provide, amongst other things, and maintain safe plant and equipment, must provide safe systems of work along with necessary health and safety information, instruction, training, and supervision for worker safety.


HSE Press Release 05.06.24 – Openreach fined following death of engineer.

Yours Sincerely,

Dave Joyce
National Health, Safety and Environment Officer