Major project contractor failed to assess entirely forseeable risk
Dredging International (UK) Ltd has been sentenced for safety failings after a contractor was crushed to death at the London Gateway Port construction site in Essex.
Robert Noel Mayne, aged 59, died as he and colleagues tried to retrieve a bulldozer that was “bogged down” in mud at the Stanford-le-Hope development on 23 April 2011. HSE investigators found the company failed to plan and execute a safe recovery of the stricken machine.
Basildon Crown Court heard (10 October 2013) Mr Mayne was carrying out land reclamation work in the early hours of the morning when the bulldozer he was using became trapped in water-logged silt being piped ashore by a dredger. He used his mobile phone to request assistance from the driver of a nearby excavator.
Mr Mayne left the cab of the bulldozer and was standing on a platform step while the excavator reversed towards him in order for him to hook a steel tow rope from the bulldozer onto a tooth of the excavator’s bucket.
The excavator driver turned the vehicle so the arm and bucket was towards the rear of the bulldozer and Mr Mayne was seemingly struck by the bucket. He was found lying partially submerged in water behind the bulldozer and died at the scene as a result of extensive crush injuries.
The company had not drawn up a safe working recovery procedures for the forseeable risk that vehicles may become trapped. Drivers had developed ‘ad hoc’ methods of recovery. This required some drivers to leave the safety of their cabs, which brought them into contact with other heavy machinery.
Safe system of vehicle recovery required
Dredging International (UK) Ltd, of Baker Street, Weybridge, Surrey, was fined £120,000 and ordered to pay £26,473 in costs by 30 November 2013, after pleading guilty to breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety At Work etc Act 1974.
After the hearing, HSE inspector Paul Grover said:
“Hydraulic land reclamation operations are high risk operations by their very nature. However, despite identifying the entirely foreseeable risk of heavy machinery becoming bogged, Dredging International failed to undertake a suitable and sufficient risk assessment.
This meant that drivers at London Gateway Port, provided by a contractor, were left without safe working procedures, instruction, and adequate command and communication systems to effectively manage obvious and frequently occurring risks.
This absence of safe recovery procedures resulted in drivers adopting their own methods of recovery out of necessity, The method used at the time of Mr Mayne’s death resulted in him leaving the cab of his bulldozer and taking up a position in close proximity to the excavator that was coming to his assistance.
Effective segregation of pedestrians and workplace transport, particularly heavy machinery, is a fundamental health and safety requirement, especially in the construction sector. This tragic death could have been prevented if a safe system of recovery had been put in place and adhered to.”