Grandfather's death from pole plunge could have been prevented, court told

John Flowers
John Flowers

The tragic death of a Preston electricity worker who plunged six metres while working could have been avoided if previous concerns had been acted on, a court has been told.

Grandfather John Flowers, 63, from New Hall Lane, Preston, was killed when he accidentally cut through his 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 in the area to make the electricity lines dead to allow tree cutters to safely carry out work to remove vegetation from power lines.

A court heard two surveys - one five years earlier - had already noted the dangers from ivy growth on the pole he had climbed up, and that it was rotting, but neither had been acted on.

The Health and Safety Executive is prosecuting his employers Electricity North West over findings in a subsequent probe, and claims the work at height on the pole could have been

avoided altogether if the two surveys had been acted upon.

The firm denies failing to carry out a risk assessment for employees working at height, including Mr Flowers, and contravening work at height regulations by failing to ensure the work was

properly planned and supervised.

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

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"Had the survey of June 2013 been acted upon, again as it should, then the pole should have been replaced by a new pole because it was rotten and required replacing. Not even was the pole not replaced, but the ongoing issue the 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."

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 safety lanyard.

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

His relatives supported each other as they watched the proceedings from the public gallery.

(proceeding)