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DRIVER EJECTED THROUGH EXCAVATOR WINDOW

Contractor prosecuted after mobile plant struck bridge on M1 project 

Engineering contractor Van Elle Ltd has been ordered to pay over £40,000 in fines and prosecution costs after a fitter driving an excavator suffered severe injuries when the vehicle struck a bridge on the M1 motorway.

The maintenance fitter was driving the wheeled excavator during widening work on the motorway between Junctions 25 and 28 when the boom hit a bridge in September 2009. He was not wearing a seat belt and was thrown over the steering column and through the open front screen. His head struck the front excavator blade causing severe head injuries. 

HSE investigators found the driver had not received adequate training in use of the excavator. He had been assessed to carry out lifting operations at the company premises but on the day in question was standing in for a regular driver on the motorway construction site.

Mansfield magistrates were told he was driving through the site with the excavator boom at an unsafe height. The manufacturer’s guidance states the boom must not be above 4m during travel. The machine was being driven with the boom elevated to more 6m.

Incident could have been prevented by adequate training

Van Elle Ltd, of Kirkby Lane, Pinxton, Nottinghamshire, pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 9(1) of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998. The firm was fined £12,750 and ordered to pay costs of £29,660.

HSE inspector Kevin Wilson said:

“This worker was extremely lucky to escape with his life. As it is he has been left with life-changing injuries. These injuries were wholly preventable had the company ensured the driver had adequate training in safe travel positions for manoeuvring the excavator on the construction project.

They failed to take into account his lack of training for the particular task; there was a risk of striking overhead restrictions from when the journey started with the boom in the elevated position. His injuries could have been mitigated against if the operator had been wearing his seatbelt.”

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