THAMES Water has been fined hundreds of thousands of pounds after three of its workers 'narrowly avoided death by drowning in sewage'.

The water and wastewater company which serves Oxfordshire, based in Reading, admitted breaching safety regulations following the incident, and was fined £300,000 and instructed to pay court costs of £16,419.

Westminster magistrates' court heard the incident dated back to August 29, 2017, when three workers were carrying out work in a sewer at East Greenwich, controlled by Thames Water when a 150-year-old cast iron sewer gate collapsed, engulfing the workers and carrying them along the sewers.

The three workers suffered minor physical injuries but have been mentally affected, the court heard. One worker has been treated for the long-term traumatic stress because of the incident, which has prevented him from continuing work in his specialised career.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that Thames Water had planned individual work activities but failed to properly coordinate these as the permission and authorisation system was fragmented. The company had no effective means of collating, comparing and adapting to the impact of multiple work activities.

Due to an unrelated planned power outage, sewage pumps vital to the control of sewage levels for the work being undertaken at East Greenwich were not available for use, which resulted in the failure.

After the hearing, HSE inspector James Goldfinch said: “This serious incident endangered the lives of three workers and caused lasting adverse mental health effects; the workers narrowly avoided death by drowning in sewage."

“It should serve as a warning and a reminder to all those that work in confined spaces that work in these challenging environments must be properly planned, coordinated and managed.”