Power company has adopted stricter safety practices since the tragic death of Dr James Kew
PUBLISHED: 19:34 27 January 2014 | UPDATED: 19:34 27 January 2014
A major power company has tightened up its safety measures following the tragic death of a runner who was electrocuted by a fallen cable.
UK Power Networks has issued stricter guidance for employees to immediately switch off a power source if a member of the public could be at risk, jurors were told at Chelmsford Coroners Court today (Monday).
Dr James Kew, of Ashdon, was killed instantly when he ran into a power cable at neck height on a track between Ringers Farm and the Shortgrove Estate in Newport, in July 2012.
Less than half an hour before, David Child, a network manager at UK Power Networks who has over 20 years’ experience with the company, dealt with a call from a member of the public alerting the company to the hazard.
He said it was “very unusual” for him to pick up a call of this nature because the public are normally transferred to the company’s call centre, which then passes it on to technicians in the field.
The court heard transcripts of Mr Child’s conversation with Roger Musgrove, a dog walker from Newport who discovered the fallen cable about 40 minutes before Dr Kew was killed.
Mr Musgrove had first phoned the National Grid at 8.13pm, after his wife Googled a contact number on her mobile phone, and was told by the call handler that he would get in touch with the power company.
Mr Child answered the call from the National Grid operator and at 8.19pm phoned Mr Musgrove back, where he was warned about the dangerous nature of the wire.
It was the first time Mr Child had handled this type of call and his focus was on discovering the location of the fault, he told the court.
Asked why he had not tried to establish more information about the type of cable, Mr Child said: “We do not try and get members of the public to diagnose what is wrong with our equipment, that is why I was trying to concentrate on a location.
“I’ve never directed anyone to de-energise a line purely on the advice of a member of the public without any corroborative evidence. That is why I wanted an engineer to go there.”
He later added: “I didn’t appreciate the danger of the situation.”
Mr Child said he assumed the fallen cable was a stay wire, described in court as being like a guy rope and not live, because there had been no power cuts reported by the public.
“It seemed a more credible notion at the time,” he said, before explaining to jurors the risk of turning off electricity because of the loss of power to traffic signals and medical equipment in people’s homes.
Coroner Caroline Beasley-Murray queried the new policy which had been put in place following Dr Kew’s death.
She asked: “If there is any doubt or suspicion that the public is at risk you are now told to de-energise?”
Mr Child replied: “If we have any reason to believe there may be a risk to the public then we de-energise. That has always been our practice but they [UK Power Networks] have made it explicit to de-energise.”
When asked if he had anything else to add he said: “I wish something else had happened, I really do. It has had a very deep effect on me and I would like to give my condolences to the family.”
Addressing Mr Child, James Kew’s father, Jeremy Kew, said: “I am completely amazed you didn’t ask Mr Musgrove to stay put and warn people off. Can I ascertain you could have turned the power off?”
Mr Child replied: “Yes”.
The inquest continues.