Prosecution HIghlights Need for Risk Assessment and Control

Posted: 18th June 2011

A plant hire company has been fined £7,000 and ordered to pay costs of £10,000 following an accident on a building site in which an excavator bucket filled with concrete fell off the arm of the machine supplied by the company and crushed the site foreman to death.

The plant hire firm and the man who was operating the excavator when the accident occurred were both convicted of breaches of health and safety legislation. The operator was fined £700 and ordered to pay costs of £1,000. The main contractor, which has now entered administration, also faces charges for having failed adequately to plan, manage and monitor the construction workand failing to take reasonably practicable steps that would have prevented the accident.
The accident happened because of the failure to insert a ‘safety pin’ necessary to enable the bucket to be locked to the arm of the excavator.
The plant hire company was convicted on the grounds that it ‘did not have a suitable regime of inspection for the plant it hired out to ensureDiggers safety conditions were maintained’ and that it had ‘also supplied the eq uipment without adequate safety warning signs, written information and instruc tions or CE marking’. The company had also neglected to ensure the attachments supplied with the excavator were maintained in an efficient state, working order and in good repair.
The operator had failed to take adequate care when positioning the bucket.
When an accident could easily have been avoided, as in this case, the HSE often spreads the net of blame widely. It is important for those with health and safety responsibilities to be aware of the scope of their duties. Whilst an error may appear to be mainly the fault of one person, ‘liability creep’ can easily occur unless careful risk assessment and minimisation procedures are in place.