Published: 13:32, 15 February 2019
| Updated: 14:45, 15 February 2019
An engineer who was electrocuted by a faulty machine lay undiscovered for more than an hour on a factory floor.
Andy Meade, 55, was rushed to Darent Valley Hospital after colleagues found him unresponsive in the Northfleet warehouse.
It was thought the father-of-four had suffered a sudden heart attack.
It was not until a week after his death that distraught wife, Paula, 55, was told he had died from a catastrophic electric shock.
Mrs Meade, from Walderslade, said: “I was told it was a heart attack. But he was a healthy man, with no history of heart problems.
“It wasn’t until his colleagues watched the CCTV and police investigated fully, they realised he had been electrocuted.”
Mr Meade was servicing a faulty electrical air compressor, which had not been maintained for more than a decade, when he was electrocuted despite the machine being disconnected.
Now Mrs Meade is calling for safety checks to be tightened.
Currently legislation calls for electrical checks to be carried out within a ‘reasonable’ timeframe, leaving the time scale open to interpretation.
Mrs Meade said: “My life was in colour before his death, but now it’s in black and white.
“That machine had not been electrically safety checked in 11 years. I don’t have a health and safety qualification, but that does not seem right to me. Surely we need more timely checks to keep our workers safe?”
Engineer of 30 years Mr Meade was completing the service for contracting firm Logistex in December 2017 at the Crete Hall Road distribution centre of Kimberley Clark, the company which owns Kleenex and Huggies.
Even though the machine was off a fault meant a metal plate was permanently live at 240 volts.
Mrs Meade said: “This was an accident waiting to happen.”
Shortly after Mr Meade was found in a critical condition she received a call saying he had suffered a suspected heart attack and was left fearing the worst as she listened to medical staff working to resuscitate her husband.
She said: “I just heard them counting time and banging and calling his name. They came out and said it wasn’t looking good.
“Five minutes later they came back and I knew what they were going to tell me.
“It was Andy’s job to cover other staff who were off sick or away on holiday, which meant that service would normally have been someone else’s workload. That is hard to accept.”
It has since been revealed the machine had not been tested since it was installed in 2006, and had been modified a number of times over 11 years.
It is believed these changes were not conducted to the correct standard or under professional supervision.
At an inquest an Archbishop's Palace Mr Meade’s death was ruled to have been an accident. The Health and Safety Executive is investigating.
Employers liability lawyer from Slater and Gordon Tracey Benson said: “Logistex failed to have the compressor tested since its installation. It became a death trap for any worker that was due to service it.
“In my opinion they will have breached a host of regulatory codes and therefore will have to answer some tough questions from the HSE, potentially resulting in a conviction.”
Mrs Meade added: “There should be a defibrillator in every place of work but especially places where workers could be exposed to potentially fatal injuries.
"It could be a simple addition to a workplace that could save a life.
“I also think all staff in roles like Andy’s should carry radios which automatically call for assistance when a person is laying down. When Andy was electrocuted there was only one radio available for two engineers. He wasn’t wearing one and was left lying there for more than an hour.
“We have been cheated of our life together. He was cheated and I have been cheated. My world stopped turning the day he died.
“We were like the other half of each other. I always came up with the ideas and he would do them. It was fun, we always had each other’s backs.”
“Once our children had grown up we had the time to rediscover who we were as a couple and we were looking forward to spending the rest of our lives together.”