Cost of utility's (WPD) fatal imcompetence – a mere £270,000

From the wonderful Electrical Review Column – Gossage

“The late Professor Roland Levinsky was a pioneering immunologist, and vice-chancellor of the University of Plymouth. He died because, in atrocious weather conditions, he walked into a live 11,000 volt power cable left dangling across a footpath near Wembury, Devon.
It was not as if the cable owners, Western Power Distribution (WPD), did not know about their insecure high-voltage cable. The company had been contacted several times by concerned people who had seen the cable hanging loose.

But instead of logging the problem as “dangerous”, the company call centre instead listed it as just “miscellaneous”. So the power was never turned off. And an engineer dispatched to fix the fault was diverted elsewhere.

And the cost to WPD for its incompetence, which took the life of a distinguished academic? The paltry total of £270,000. Including legal costs. In a world where electricity companies are walking off with billions worth of unearned, windfall profits, such judicial generosity makes me despair.”

This is another examples of the shambles resulting from stupid modern “management” methods, and excessive belief in the benefits of the free market and competition, which involved the break up of integrated industries,  (WPD used to be part of SWEB – the old local integrated electricity company) once staffed by long term, dedicated qualified people, since replaced by the call centre culture with untrained temporary staff working off a script and the attendant loss of tacit knowledge which is vital to organisations but which is ignored by modern management theory.

When WPD was part of SWEB it was possible to get accurate bills and energy data on mag tape which worked perfectly – now SWEB cannot actually calculate and deliver correct half hourly bills. It is impossible to get meters installed or moved without going through a complicated and involved process, whereas in the past one could simply phone up SWEB, make a request and know it would be done.

One comment on “Cost of utility's (WPD) fatal imcompetence – a mere £270,000

  1. Wessex Water ( along with all the other water companies )had to have a complete department to monitor the bills, to tell them (and SWEB) where SWEB had got them wrong; and to introduce a complicated and baffling procedure called PowerChange to ensure that electricity meters and power supplies were installed, uprated or moved where and when Wessex wanted them which happened all the time.

    These were all costs shifted on privatisation from the industry to the consumer, along with the attendant appalling drop in service due to the loss of time served experts who knew what they were doing – a loss of tacit knowledge noted elsewhere on this site
    This shambolisation is permeating our whole society as modern management ignores the value of time served experts, and the vast store of tacit knowledge they hold in their heads.
    It is clear that their replacement with untrained temporary people working off a script, in a control romm as in this tragic case, and is so often the case now, cannot deliver the kind of service we need and expect, and this applies to numerous areas of modern life.

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