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COMMUNICATION MIX-UP LED TO FATAL CRUSHING

Waste management firm to pay over £1/4m after mobile plant fatality

SITA UK Ltd has been fined £210,000 and ordered to pay prosecution costs of £38,000 after a vehicle driver was fatally crushed between two items of mobile plant. The incident took place at a Northamptonshire landfill site on 4 January 2007.

Northampton Crown Court heard that driver arrived at the site to empty his refuse lorry. The system of work required vehicles to be assisted on and off the tipping area due to the wet weather and soft ground conditions on the site.

The vehicle became bogged down and, due to a communication mix-up, the driver was attaching a tow rope to a bulldozer unaware that a compactor was being used to push the vehicle from the rear. 

He was crushed between his lorry and back of the bulldozer and died at the scene.

The court heard from the prosecution that:

  • new working arrangements had been introduced a few days before the accident without a proper assessment of the risk
  • supervisory roles for staff on the site had not been defined; and
  • site rules on pushing lorries were ambiguous.
Roles, responsibilities and rules must be clear and understood

HSE Inspector Roy Bush said:

“Every company has a legal responsibility to take care of people working on their site, whether they are employed by them or not, in whatever circumstances they are asked to operate.

“Assessing risks, mitigating them wherever possible or stopping work as appropriate is the least people should expect from companies. Employers need to ensure their staff understand their roles and responsibilities in making sure sites like this operate to clear site safety rules.

“In this case, the prosecution shows that this has not happened and Mr Carter’s family have lost him as a result.”

Comment

The context of this tragic death are not construction related.

However, the inadequacies regarding assessment of new systems of work, the need for clear roles, responsibilities and rules could be relevant to many of the fatalities that occur in the construction sector. 

The sentence again shows that significant fines can now be expected where a death arises from health and safety offence.

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