Environment Agency prosecuted after fatal accident at work

The environment agency has been prosecuted after a fatal accident at work saw a 43 year old employee drown.

There was a catalogue of errors which resulted in Simon Wenn drowning whilst dredging an icy Cambridgeshire watercourse.

Mr Wenn and a colleague were working on the maintenance of the Counter Drain at Mepal.

He was operating a crawler crane which was rigged as a dragline to dredge sediment from the bed of the watercourse.

The water was frozen and the crane was on the river bank which was frosty and wet. Timber tracking mats were being used to provide better grip and stability for the work to be carried out, as well as to protect the grassy bank from damage.

Mr Wenn was repositioning one of the tracking mats, using the crane to move the mat behind and swing it to position in front of him. But, as it rotated round and through the water the crane started to slip towards it then tipped into the water.

Mr Wenn was trapped in the cab of the crane. Emergency services could not free him and the machine continued to sink with him in the cab. He drowned as freezing water filled the cab.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation revealed that the crane Mr Wenn was operating had been fitted with a 19 metre boom which exceeded the manufacturer specifications of a maximum 16 metres.

The Environment Agency had made an inadequate assessment of the technical requirements of the site, and of the impact of cold weather.

The system of work was unsafe and there was a lack of planning and competent site supervision.

Although Mr Wenn was a trained dragline operator, he had no previous experience of using a crawler for lifting operations. In attempting to move the mats, he dragged them through the water rather than lifting them clear.

This fatal accident at work followed a similar, no fatal incident in Norfolk in 2008. It involved a smaller tracked machine operated by the Environment Agency employees. And the HSE found that the Environment Agency failed to act on findings of its own internal investigation into this incident.

Swain & Co.’s injury claim solicitors say that this tragic fatal accident at work could have been prevented had more planning been given to the dredging work to minimise the risk arising from the use of a dragline to maintain this watercourse.

The Environment Agency failed to learn from failings made in a previous incident and as a result a man lost his life, and a family lost a member.

Losing a loved one is traumatic, and to lose them due to others failings means that you may need answers as to what and how things happened.

We are experienced in getting you answers and also the compensation you and your family need.

See our Fatal Accident claims page for more information or call us for free on 0800 0351 999