String of health and safety oversights led to man’s death…
The Environment Agency has been fined £200,000 after a series of health and safety oversights led to the death of one of their employees from drowning in Cambridgeshire.
The 43-year-old accident victim died on 8 December 2010 while he was operating a crawler crane on a river bank. He had been laying timber mats on the ground to provide more grip for the work that he was about to carry out along with a colleague. As he was repositioning the timber mats, the crane slowly became unstable and tipped forward into the water. The man was trapped in the cab of the crane and he drowned in the freezing water despite the best efforts of the emergency services to rescue him.
The investigation by the HSE into the accident discovered that the crane had been fitted with parts that didn’t meet the manufacturer’s specifications. The Environment Agency had also failed to carry out an adequate risk assessment of the site where the accident occurred and had overlooked in particular the impact of the freezing conditions. The system of work used to place the tracking mats was deemed as unsafe and there no proper planning for the work nor was there a necessary level of supervision at the site.
It was also revealed that the accident victim didn’t have the necessary experience in using the crawler crane for lifting operations and instead of lifting the mats away from the water he instead dragged them through the water causing the crane to become unstable.
The Environment Agency was fined £200,000 in addition to prosecution costs of £28,548 after admitting breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.
HSE inspector Stephen Faulkner spoke after the hearing:
“This tragic death could have been prevented had more thought and rigour been given to planning the dredging work, in order to minimise the risk arising from the use of the dragline to maintain this watercourse.
“The Environment Agency failed to heed warnings and learn lessons from a previous non-fatal, incident where there were similar failures to manage risk.
“Our investigations of incidents are not just there to assign responsibility. They are an important source of information to help develop effective policies and procedures to ensure the health and safety of workers. Employers should act upon the findings of such investigations and implement procedures to reduce risks. “HSE will always consider prosecution where there has been a fatal accident in the workplace.”
Author: Julian Roberts
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