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DEATH CAUSED BY FAILURE TO INSERT QUICK HITCH PIN

Contractors and excavator operator prosecuted over quick hitch fatality

A plant hire company and an excavator operator have been fined a total of £18,700 after a foreman died when an excavator bucket (filled with concrete) became detached from an excavator dipper arm on a London construction site in 2007.

General foreman, Gerry Fox, was crushed by the bucket which it fell from the arm of the 12 tonne excavator being driven by Michael Cunningham. Legal proceedings in respect of the plant hire company supplying the excavator and Michael Cunningham the excavator operator have now been concluded. 

Euro Earthworks Ltd, the PC and employer of Mr Cunningham also faces charges but the company has entered administration and will be tried in its absence on 7 July 2011.

City of London Magistrates’ Court heard that:

  • Mr Cunningham – failed to insert the ‘quick hitch’ pin necessary to safely lock the bucket in place. He failed to take reasonable care for the safety of others by positioning the bucket directly over Mr Fox and site supervisor Tim McCarthy.
  • Hydro Plant Ltd – lacked a suitable regime of safety inspection for plant hired out. It neglected to ensure the quick hitch and all attachments supplied with the excavator were maintained in an efficient state, working order and in good repair. It also supplied the equipment without adequate safety warning signs, written information and instructions or CE marking.
  • Euro Earthworks Ltd – failed to adequately plan, manage and monitor the construction work. HSE issued advice on safe use of excavator quick hitches in March 2007. Euro Earthworks Ltd was aware of this advice and made amendments to its written risk assessment, but still failed to take reasonably practicable steps that would have prevented the incident.
Significant number of incidents involving excavator buckets

Hydro Plant Ltd, of Wadsworth Close, Greenford, Brent pleaded guilty to breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974. The company was fined £7,000 ordered to pay costs of £10,000

Michael Denis Cunningham, of Latimer Road, Eastbourne pleaded guilty to breaching Section 7 of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974. He was fined £700 and ordered to pay costs of £1,000

Euro Earthworks Ltd, of Boston Manor, Brentford, Hounslow was charged with breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 . Euro Earthworks Ltd will be tried in its absence at the City of London Magistrates’ Court on 7 July 2011.

HSE Inspector Loraine Charles said:

“This tragic incident was entirely preventable. There had already been a significant number of incidents involving buckets becoming detached from quick hitches, in particular semi-automatic quick hitches where operators had failed to insert the safety pin.

Mr Cunningham can have been in no doubt that he should not have operated the excavator without the quick hitch’s safety pin in place and that he should not have manoeuvred the bucket over people.

As hirers of the work equipment, Hydro Plant Ltd should clearly have paid much closer attention to the requirements placed upon them by health and safety law to ensure that use of the equipment was safe.”

Comment

This prosecution arises from one of number of fatal and non-fatal incidents involving excavators and quick hitches over the last three years.

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One Response to “DEATH CAUSED BY FAILURE TO INSERT QUICK HITCH PIN”

  1. FINAL DEFENDANT SENTENCED OVER EXCAVATOR DEATH | PP Construction Safety News Desk Says:

    […] Michael Denis Cunningham, of Latimer Road, Eastbourne were sentenced for separate breaches at an earlier hearing in May […]