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Family may sue govt dept. after fatal accident

Family may sue govt dept. after fatal accident

A government department may face a compensation claim from the family of a man who passed away during a fatal accident at work.

Simon Wenn died at the age of 43 in December 2010 when he drowned in a watercourse while working for the Environment Agency on the maintenance of the Counter Drain at Mepal, Cambridgeshire.

At the time of this incident, the 43-year-old was operating a rigged crawler crane to dredge up sediment from the bed of the watercourse located between Welches Dam and the A142 bridge.

Due to the cold weather, the water was frozen and the bank his machine was placed on frosty, meaning specialist mats were laid out on the surface prior to the work beginning in order to stop the equipment from sliding.

However, while Mr Wenn was attempting to reposition one of these tracking mats, his crane tilted upwards and tipped over into the water.

Consequently, he was trapped in the crane's cab and the emergency services were unable to extricate him as the machine continued to sink, meaning he drowned after the freezing water eventually filled the enclosed space.

An investigation carried out by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) established that the machinery Mr Wenn had been provided with to conduct this job was unsuitable, while the Environment Agency was also found to have inadequately assessed the working conditions at the Mepal site.

As such, the government division was prosecuted for its negligence and, in a case heard at Cambridge Crown Court, the department admitted breaking the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and was fined £200,000.

Stephen Faulkner, inspector at the HSE, commented: "Mr Wenn's tragic death could have been prevented had more thought and rigour been given to planning the dredging work, in order to minimise the risk arising from the use of the dragline to maintain this watercourse."

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Posted by Francesca Witney