Grandad’s fatal fall ‘could have been avoided’

John Flowers
John Flowers
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The tragic death of a Preston electricity worker who plunged five to six metres while working could have been prevented if previous concerns had been acted on, a court was told.

Grandfather John Flowers, 63, from New Hall Lane, Preston, was killed when he accidentally cut through a safety lanyard while trying to clear ivy from an electricity pole on Gregson Lane, Hoghton, in November 2013.

The linesman and a colleague had been working to make the electricity lines dead to allow tree cutters to carry out work to remove vegetation from power lines.

The Health and Safety Executive is prosecuting his employers, Electricity North West, over findings in a subsequent probe, and claims the work could have been avoided altogether if earlier warnings had been acted upon.

The firm, which faces an unlimited fine, denies the charges.

Prosecuting, Nigel Lawrence QC told the jurors the investigation that followed his death identified “numerous problems and issues”.

He said a probe found the ivy growth on the pole had been identified more than five years earlier when a survey recommended it was so bad it should be cut as soon as possible, but the ivy was allowed to carry on growing.

Another survey found the ivy was growing into the conductors in the top of the pole and required an immediate cut, with the pole in a poor condition and rotting. A risk assessment three months before the job failed to mention the activity of cutting vegetation or the hazards.

Another, on the day of the task, had not been signed by the linesmen, just the tree cutters and made no reference to the ivy removal.

The work should have involved a mobile elevating work platform because the ivy would have prevented his equipment gripping the pole properly, but the only one available was being used by a tree cutter.

He said: “This case is not solely about the accident involving, nor the death of, John Flowers. It is about the defendant’s overhead linesmen working in the Vegetation Management Section, who had to work at height whilst trying to clear vegetation or ivy off wooden electricity poles.

“Clearing or removing vegetation obstructing dead wood poles was not only necessary and required, but a common problem.

“It should have been planned and then understood by everybody within the vegetation management team.

“Effectively John Flowers and Barry Bates were left to their own devices.”

He added: “In November 2013 there should have been no need for anyone to work at height on this pole.

“Had the survey in June 2008 been properly acted upon as it should, the ivy should have been cut and removed years earlier.

“Had the survey of June 2013 been acted upon, again as it should, then the pole should have been replaced by a new pole because it was rotten. Not even was the pole not replaced, but the ongoing issue, the ivy, wasn’t addressed either following this survey.

“Yet we end up in November 2013 with a man having to work at height to remove a large quantity of ivy from a pole that should not have been there.”

Neither Mr Flowers or his colleague Barry Bates had been informed beforehand of the need to cut ivy.

The court heard he had connected his harness and lanyard correctly after climbing a ladder up the pole, but the ivy restricted his view of his equipment.

He had not been given cutting equipment of his own but was using a borrowed saw.

The blade severed his lanyard, causing the fatal fall.

Mr Flowers, a regular at Acregate Labour Club in Preston, is survived by his wife Teresa, their three daughters, and three grandchildren.

The case continues and could last for five weeks.