UK telco Openreach, a subsidiary of BT, has been fined £1.34 million ($1.70m) for breaching health and safety laws for its staff after one of its engineers drowned in 2020.

Alun Owen, 32, died in October 2020 after he had been sent to work on a customer's telephone line in the village of Abergwyngregyn, Wales.

– Getty Images

Prior to this, the village had flooded in the days before Owen arrived to work after the River Aber burst its banks.

At Llandudno Magistrates Court last week, Openreach pleaded guilty to breaching health and safety laws for staff working near water.

The court had heard that Owen, a father or two, had been called out to a customer's home in the village after a fault was identified on lines crossing the river.

He attempted to get into the river to throw a new line to the other bank, with water up to his calves, but slipped and was then swept away.

His body was found later that evening around 270 meters downstream. An inquest found that Owen, of Bethesda, Gwynedd, had died from drowning.

The court was told that although Openreach had policies in place for working near water, they were not followed.

Openreach's chief executive, Clive Selley, apologized for the company's failings, while Dominic Kay KC, for Openreach, said the company wanted to express its "genuine and sincere remorse for what happened."

He also apologized after the company withdrew a staff discount for the family's broadband services because Owen no longer worked for Openreach.

"I am deeply saddened that Openreach added to the grief and suffering," said Mr Selley.

Selley also apologized after Openreach used a wedding picture of Owen as part of a case study in new health and safety training, without seeking permission from his family.

"The fine imposed is inconsequential and does not diminish the pain, nor does it lessen the void that has been left since Al was taken away from us," said Owen's family in a statement read outside the court.

"There was never any doubt that Openreach were entirely culpable for causing Al's death - a death that was preventable and a death that resulted in the loss of a precious and cherished member of the family, who was also dearly treasured by his wide circle of friends."

DCD's sympathies go out to Alun Owen's family, friends, and colleagues.