National Grid admits safety breach after schoolboy’s canal death

Floral tributes for Robbie Williamson (11) who died last week after falling off the canal bridge on Lowerhouse Lane.
Floral tributes for Robbie Williamson (11) who died last week after falling off the canal bridge on Lowerhouse Lane.
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The National Grid has admitted to a health and safety breach relating to the death of Burnley schoolboy Robbie Williamson, who died after falling from one of the firm’s bridges.

Shuttleworth College pupil Robbie (11) died on April 22nd last year after falling from a pipe while playing with friends on a canal bridge near Lowerhouse.

Robbie Williamson

Robbie Williamson

Defence counsel Peter Smith entered a guilty plea on behalf of National Grid during a hearing at Preston Crown Court before Judge Paul Brown, in relation to the schoolboy’s death.

However, it is understood the company will insist that efforts would still have been made to bypass safety features.

Robbie slipped from a gas pipe attached to Dugdale Bridge along the Leeds Liverpool Canal in Lowerhouse Lane and hit his head on the bank before falling into the water.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive into the tragedy led to the charge being made against National Grid.

It is alleged that, on or before April 22nd, 2014, National Grid Plc., failed to discharge a duty imposed by health and safety legislation, with regards to “the conveyance of natural gas”.

The legislation covers ensuring “as was reasonably practicable” the health and safety of others by preventing the risk of injury by falls from the bridge.

Robbie was pulled from the water by nearby resident Peter Graham, but later died in hospital.

East Lancashire Coroner Mr Richard Taylor recorded a conclusion of accidental death following an inquest in March, and raised concerns over the ease with which children can access such pipes.

Judge Brown adjourned the case for a brief trial or Newton hearing on how the breach was caused, on December 8th.

The firm has pleaded guilty to failing to discharge their duty in ensuring “as was reasonably practicable” the health and safety of others by exposing them to risk of injury.

The Newton hearing will be held in front of a judge when the defence and prosecution dispute the facts on which the court would impose a sentence.

The company potentially faces an unlimited fine.

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