A British utilities firm has been fined £2.6million over devastating breaches of the Health & Safety at Work Act 1974, which led to the accidental and preventable death of contractor.

Mr James Sim, 32, was crushed by a collapsing trench which was found by Health & Safety Executives (HSEs) to have been ‘unsafe’ and ‘easy to prevent’.

Mr Sim was laying ducting for a new cable for an offshore windfarm, working under a subcontract for Balfour Beatty Utility Solutions Ltd in Sheffield – who pleaded guilty to safety breaches at Preston Crown Court today – six years after the unfortunate event.

The Court heard how engineers e-mailed a report to Balfour Beatty six days prior to Mr Sim’s accident, highlighting the narrowness of the trench, and stating that it was showing signs of caving.

A Judge ruled that Balfour Beatty had failed to provide an adequate risk assessment or sufficiently control the way in which the trench’s excavation took place.

The company were fined £2.6m and ordered to pay £54,000 in costs.

HSE inspector Chris Hatton said: “The level of this fine should serve as a warning to industry not to ignore health and safety matters.

“Balfour Beatty failed to adequately assess, plan and supervise the work being undertaken. Trench collapses are easy to prevent, and it is disappointing that James’ life was lost in such a tragic way.

“The family has shown great patience and support throughout this investigation which is a credit to both them and James’ memory.”