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EXCAVATOR QUICK HITCH INQUEST CONCLUDES

Quick hitches come under the spotlight again after groundworker death

A three day inquest at Stourport Coroners Court has ended in a verdict of ‘accidental death’. Mark Handford died just over a year ago in Worcestershire when the 22-year-old construction worker was struck on the head by a bucket which fell from an excavator.

His family has called for construction firms to take action to prevent a similar tragedy and for a mandatory ban on semi-automatic quick-hitches. Mark was employed by groundworkers J A Burke Construction whilst Kingsbury Transport & Plant provided the excavator operated by John Gold (t/a Gold Plant Hire & Contractor)

Solicitors Irwin Mitchell on behalf of the family said:

“The family believes that the type of coupler used to attach the bucket to the digger offers too much scope for things to go wrong. The family feels that the construction plant industry should revisit the voluntary ban – implemented in October 2008 – which meant that semi-automatic couplers would not be supplied for new machines in the UK, while pre-existing units remained legal.

The Handfords believe that, given the number of units still in use in this country, it could take some considerable time for this mechanism to be phased out as and when machines come to the end of their use and so feel that an outright mandatory ban should be put in place now.”

HSE expert concludes safety pin missing

The HSE expert witness stated that it was probable that the excavator was turned off when the bucket came away. Hydraulic pressure should have been sufficient to keep the bucket safely attached and, in the event of hydraulic failure, a safety pin should have been in place, which in turn should have been secured by a clip.

He concluded that the main safety pin could not have been in place when the bucket fell. The safety pin (which may not even have been the one supplied or a correct one) was found on the ground near the excavator following the incident. The retaining clip was never found.

A failure in the hydraulics meant that the bucket was released and the safety pin which should have worked as a back up, was not in place, allowing the bucket to fall and strike Mr Handford.

Comment

There is now comprehensive HSE backed industry guidance on excavator quick hitches contained in the Strategic Forum for Construction (SFfC) Plant Group Guide to Safe use of quick hitches on excavators’.

HSE has also published more general information on the safe use of excavators. A key element of that advice is the need to exclude people from areas of excavator operation by the provision of suitable barriers.

Most excavator related deaths involve a person working in the vicinity of the excavator rather than the driver. Bunting or fencing can be used to create and maintain a pedestrian exclusion area.

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