BT fined over unsafe practices at works site in Putney

Published: Wednesday, June 7, 2023

  • Council prosecutes telecoms company over unsafe work space
  • Case highlights ‘cavalier attitude’ to safety
  • Court told safety measures “not my job”

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A poorly secured workspace on the public highway

Telecoms giant BT has been ordered to pay more than £8,000 in fines and court costs after magistrates were told its contractors had put the public at risk from unsafe working practices.

The company was prosecuted by the council’s highways team after a site inspection revealed that residents and visitors to Florian Road in Putney were put at risk of injury and damage to their property by the company’s “cavalier attitude” to public safety.

In court the company pleaded guilty to highways safety offences and was ordered to pay a total of £8,300 in fines and costs.

The court heard that contractors working for BT to replace a telegraph pole in Florian Road had failed to properly cordon off their works site and its heavy machinery, some of which had been placed on the road surface directly adjacent to parked cars, posing a risk of damage to residents’ property.

In his witness statement the council’s highways inspector said: “I approached the operatives undertaking the work.…..and explained the reason for my visit. I informed them that the site set up was dangerous, and that they were putting pedestrians and themselves at risk by working on the public highway without adequate safeguarding around the works area.

“I informed the operatives ….. I would be raising this as a high risk fail. I requested them to make the site safe immediately by setting the site up correctly with cones and barriers and was informed by one of the operatives that ‘that isn’t my job’ and ‘this is how we work all the time in other boroughs’ to which I responded, ‘unfortunately that isn’t how we work in this borough’. The operative then….confirmed that they did not have any further barriers or cones to use.”

Jenny Yates Wandsworth’s Cabinet Member for Transport said: “This was a clear failure by BT and its contractors to organise and operate a safe workspace that would not pose a risk to passers-by. And they did not even have sufficient barriers or cones with them to ensure the safety of the public. They demonstrated a quite cavalier attitude to the safety of residents.

“By taking this matter to court we hope this will send out a message to all the utility companies that they need to plan and arrange their works properly and ensure the highest standards of public safety.”

Heavy machinery being operated next to an unguarded pavement