A POWER company has been fined £275,000 over the death of an electrical engineer.

John Higgins died from horrific injuries while carrying out maintenance work at an electricity sub-station.

As the 59-year-old UK Power Networks engineer worked on a piece of equipment, there was an explosion at the site in Chelmsford and he was engulfed in burning oil.

Mr Higgins, of Albany Road, West Bergholt, was six months away from retirement and had been called to the sub-station in Bishop Hall Lane shortly after noon on May 7, 2008 when an alarm went off.

He found a fault with the power regulater known as a tap changer which works automatically but can be operated manually to carry out maintenance.

The equipment is part of the electrical machinery used to reduce the incoming current from the National Grid of 132,000 volts down to 11,000.

UK Power Networks was also told to pay £145,000 in costs.

The incident prompted an investigation by Essex Police, the fire brigade, the Health and Safety Executive and EDF Energy, which has been owned by UK Power Networks since 2010. 

After the case, Shiela Higgins, Mr Higgins' wife, said: "John went to work of the seventh of May 2008 and never came home.

"Today has highlighted the failings that cost John his life."

UK Power Networks also said it deeply regretted the death of Mr Higgins.

"Our guilty plea at the earliest opportunity acknowledged our responsibilities for what tragically happened on that day," said a spokesman.

"The health and safety of our staff and everyone affected by our work activities is of paramount importance," he added. 

After sentencing, HSE Inspector Steven Gill said: "John Higgins lost his life in tragic circumstances that could have been  avoided had this activity had been properly assessed and managed by UK  Power Networks.

"His death illustrates how dangerous work on or near electrical distribution  networks can be, and how imperative it is that employers – large or small -  ensure that all activities involving high voltage electrical equipment are  properly assessed and that safe systems of work in place.

"There is no room for error or complacency when working with high  voltage  equipment."