30 January, 2023
Recent prosecutions are showing the increasing trend of accidents on construction and depot sites, where workers are struck with moving vehicles leading to either fatalities or serious injury. The HSE are more likely to proceed to enforcement action when there are significant failures in systems and procedures leading to the accidents.
In January 2023, a construction company were fined £146k when a worker was crushed and killed by a 20-tonne excavator. The worker had been waiting for an excavator to complete its works, when it rotated and crushed the worker. An HSE investigation found that the work had not been adequately planned and no instruction had been given to either the digger operator or to pedestrians working in the area. There was a complete lack of segregation of pedestrians and plant on the site. No banksman was appointed to assist in the movement of plant and no overall management of the health and safety of the site.
Traffic management is not just limited to construction sites. A drinks supplier operating from Salford, were subject to a substantial fine of £800k in January 2023 after the death of a HGV driver who was awaiting his trailer to be loaded with product. The HGV driver was struck by a forklift truck and suffered fatal serious head injuries. The HSE investigation found that the company's risk assessment was out of date and not fit for purpose. There was no pedestrian and vehicle segregation in place in the loading area and no clear information was provided to visiting drivers about site safety.
Inadequate planning was also a key factor in the significant fine received by a civil engineering company who were subject to a fine of £4.415m and ordered to pay £88k prosecution costs when its workers twice struck overhead powerlines while working on the M6 motorway causing cables to land in the path of passing vehicles. In both incidents, it was workers hitting overhead cables with the type of plant being used. The HSE found that that there had been inadequate planning, unsuitable plant being used and no task specific risk assessment for workers.
The HSE annual statistics for 2021/22 shows that 123 workers were killed in work related accidents. Whilst all those fatal accidents do not arise from construction or moving plant, the statistics appear to show that on average each year there are about 10 workers who die as a result of accidents involving vehicles or mobile plant. A significant number are also seriously injured. These accidents are preventable and require companies to adhere to well established guidance on ensuring that works are properly planned and control, there is adequate separation of pedestrians and vehicles and that adequate risk assessments are undertaken and workers instructed, informed and trained on the measures in place.
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