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MAJOR CONTRACTOR FINED AFTER HYDRO PLANT DEATH

Telehandler driver crushed by boom through cab window opening

Hochtief Construction AG has been fined £266,000 (reduced from £400,000 due to their plea of guilty) following the death of a construction worker employed by a company contracted to work on a Hochtief project. 

Mirror adjusted from cab

On 22 September 2008, Mr Hladik was driving a telehandler on the site of the Glendoe hydro project near Fort Augustus, where Hochtief Construction AG was building a new dam and turbine station. 

The telehandler was in “extremely poor condition” and the most significant of defects was that a large window was missing completely.

If the window had been in place it would have prevented the risk of being struck by the boom as it lowered under hydraulic power. 

System of inspection and maintenance inadequate

It is believed that the boom lowered onto and crushed Mr Hladik when he was leaning through the missing window. The incident could not have occurred had the protective window been in place. 

Vehicle started with nail

Following the conviction, Elaine Taylor, Head of the Health and Safety Division, said: 

“By providing for use by workers on the site a piece of equipment that was in such poor condition, Hochtief Construction AG exposed them to a significant risk to their health and safety, Sadly, for Mr Hladik and his family, that risk materialised in the loss of his life. 

Hochtief did not have in place a system to ensure that its plant was adequately inspected and maintained and this resulted in a vehicle being used on site when it was in an appalling condition Mr Hladik’s death was entirely avoidable had Hochtief complied with health and safety legislation. 

We take such breaches extremely seriously and, where it is in the public interest , will prosecute those companies that fail to comply with the legislation that is in place to protect those in the work place” 

Nails secure fork arm

Following the case, HSE Inspector John Shelton said: 

 “The telehandler involved in the incident was the most poorly maintained construction vehicle of its type I have ever seen in over 30 years service as an HSE Inspector. It should never have been allowed near any construction site. 

All plant machinery should be properly maintained – contractors must be able to demonstrate that this is the case on their sites. This tragic incident should have been avoided.”  

Hochtief Construction AG was convicted of an offence under Sections 3(1) and Section 33(1)(a) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. 

Comment

The Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service Health and Safety Division was launched by the Solicitor General in July 2009. 

The Division deals with all health and safety prosecutions and also those cases requiring specialist health and safety input on inquiry issues. The Crown Office is hailing the change as a success and reports that since set up of the Division, more than 30 cases have been resolved without the need for trials by securing early guilty pleas from the accused. 

Telehandlers are a frequent cause of fatal injury in the construction sector and there have been other deaths in recent years involving a missing cab window. This prompted HSE to issued a Telehandler Safety Alert, warning of the dangers, in March 2010.

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