Tuesday, May 30, 2006

I Was Wrong: Enron Did Kill Workers

I wrote a toungue-in-cheek article last week (Poor Enron Execs. It's Not Like They Killed Anyone) about the convicted Enron execs Kenneth Lay and Jeffrey Skilling could end up spending the rest of their lives in jail even though they didn't kill anyone, unlike workplace killers in this (and other) countries who kill and get away with only a modest fine.

Turns out I was wrong. Two commenters from across the ocean, Alex Harrowell of the Yorkshire Ranter blog and Rory O'Neill, editor of Hazards, wrote to remind me that Enron actually did kill three workers in Great Britain in 2001. Hazards editor Rory O'Neill was even kind enough to send the link:
Inquest into Enron deaths

The families of the three men killed in the Enron explosion have heard for the first time details of the routine maintenance work that ended in tragedy (Risks 14). Operator technicians Darren Higgins, 28, and Andrew Sherwood, 36, died from horrific burns at the scene of the blast at Teesside Power Station in August 2001 an inquest was told. Engineering and maintenance manager Paul Surtees, 40, died in hospital the following morning. The inquest closed this week, having reached a verdict of 'accidental death.' Detective Sergeant Ian White, of Langbaurgh CID, said he had found no evidence of corporate manslaughter and the investigation had been handed over to the HSE. Ian Waugh, HSE head of operations for the North, said: 'Until the inquest was over we couldn't finish our investigations. We have got to consider what we already know and what we have heard before we can consider whether any legal proceedings are appropriate.' The company had been prosecuted on two previous occasions for serious safety breaches. In 2001 the plant was given the RoSPA gold award for safety.
The point I was making, however, remains the same. Lay and Skilling are on their way to jail for financial crimes. They were never touched by the deaths of Darren Higgins, Andrew Sherwood or Paul Surtees.

So, Alex and Rory -- a tip of the old Confined Space hat to you for keeping us honest.