Company hit with £100,000 fine after employee killed by dangerous machinery…
A plant hire company has been fined £100,000 after am employee died while operating a tarmac cutter in the town of Box in Wiltshire.
The man was killed after he became entangled in the cutting wheel of the cutter which is normally used to cut into the top layers of tarmac on roads.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation into the incident discovered that the accident victim had been asked by the plant hire company to visit a work site in Box in order to dig up some trenches for new gas piping. The accident occurred on 30 July 2009 after the man had completed the process of digging up a trench using the cutting machine. He stepped down from the cab of the tarmac cutter vehicle while the cutting wheel was still in a raised position and rotating and stumbled into the sharp edges of the wheel leading to his fatal injuries.
Swindon Crown Court was also told that a safety switch that automatically shuts down the cutting wheel when the seat of the vehicle is vacated had been disabled – it was also revealed that it was common practice at the plant hire company for operators of the trench diggers to check and remove where necessary, picks on the cutting wheel. Safety protocols dictate that this kind of work should be a two man job but the company routinely hired out the cutting-machines to operators working alone.
The company, based in Portishead, pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and three breaches of Regulation 11 of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 and was fined £100,000 with additional prosecution costs amounting to £56,890.
HSE inspector Helena Tinton spoke after the hearing:
“The company paid scant regard to the welfare of its employees and took dangerous shortcuts in its attitude toward safety. The company’s safety failings had disastrous consequences for Mr Guard.
“The law clearly states that employers have a duty to ensure the health and safety of their employees, which includes ensuring machinery and systems of work are safe.
“The top cutter is a powerful machine, designed to cut through tarmac. They are fitted with safety switches for a very good reason – to prevent operators getting too close to rotating cutting wheels. Sending any of the three company machines to sites with one operator and with the safety switches deliberately bypassed puts workers at risk of serious injury or death while trying to check the picks”
Author: Julian Roberts
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