The human tragedy of avoidable construction related accidents
Last week a Ground worker, only 32 years of age and a father of 4, unnecessarily lost his life when a dumper truck that he was driving flipped over on a spoil heap. Now, here comes the astonishing fact – he was not wearing a safety belt and he had not received the correct training on how to manoeuvre the 9-tonne truck on spoil heaps. Although such poor site management is shocking, and the tragedy unacceptable, the small family building firm, fined £225,000 with over £11,000 in legal fees, had a multitude of health and safety policies in place and had solid character references. It would be a mistake to label the firm as rogue, rather a well-established firm that had not completely complied with HSE requirements.
They are not alone. Clancy Docwra were fined £1m and ordered to pay costs of £108k, the supervisor fined £15,000 plus a 6-month custodial sentence, when a worker was crushed and Cemex UK Operations were fined £1m when a worker was killed by machinery. Fines aside, between 2018 – 2019, 147 lives have been lost due to work related injuries. Falls from a height being the most common (statistics from the HSE report ‘Workplace fatal injuries in Great Britain, 2019’
Many of these deaths could have been prevented if companies and individuals took responsibility to protect their workers by acting to eliminate or minimize risks by implementing control measures, completing risk assessments and effectively communicating with their workers on specific risks when carrying out tasks. Monitoring the effectiveness of these measures is crucial to keeping the site and its workers safe.
Correct training is imperative. Keith Morton QC, mitigating in the case of the death of the Ground worker, said that company policy required drivers of the dumper trucks to wear seat belts and that Mr Green was regarded by colleagues as a competent driver. Astonishingly however he commented that, “There is no legal requirement for plant operators to hold any particular qualifications”
But no legal requirement as the foundation for taking responsibility or not is a grave error. Common sense and a desire to keep all site operatives safe, is a much more solid foundation and one that companies would be wise to adopt.