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November 26, 2010

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Telehandler toppled because of precarious parking

A large UK homebuilders and one of its contractors have been prosecuted after a telehandler overturned, resulting in the death of a worker and seriously injuring two others.

Banbury Crown Court heard that Linden Ltd was the principal contractor during the construction of 18 residential properties in Broughton Road, Banbury, Oxfordshire. On the morning of 11 January 2008, three ceramic tilers who were working at the site, Michael Whateley, his brother Robert Whateley, and Paul Keen, were waiting in a car for the building plot to be unlocked.

Keith Payne, who was a sub-contractor at the site, was carrying out routine checks on a telescopic materials handler. As part of the tests he raised and then fully extended the 12-metre unloaded boom of the telehandler, which was parked on unstable ground and on a slope. This caused the truck to overturn and the forks at the end of the boom landed on the workers’ car, crushing the roof of the vehicle.

Michael Whateley died at the scene from serious head injuries. Robert Whateley suffered fractures to his spine, and a brain injury. Paul Keen suffered neck and spinal injuries, a broken ankle, broken ribs and a fractured breastbone.

The HSE’s investigation found that Payne had not followed the telehandler’s operating instructions to ensure that the vehicle was positioned on suitable ground before operating the vehicle. It also identified that Linden Ltd had failed to properly maintain the machine, and the tyre pressures were lower than the recommended levels.

HSE inspector James Powell said: “This was a horrific accident that was totally avoidable. Construction sites have inherent risks, and even rough-terrain lift trucks have strict operational limits that need to be observed. With competent operation and suitable maintenance, tragedies like this should not happen.

“Lives have been destroyed here and this sentencing must serve to remind all employers and employees of their duties and responsibilities while using this type of machinery.”

Payne appeared in court on 22 November and pleaded guilty to breaching s7 of the HSWA 1974 and was fined £7000. No costs were sought because of his lack of financial means.

In mitigation, he told the court that he had no previous convictions and deeply regretted the incident. He also said he thought the vehicle was on suitable ground when he carried out the checks, but he now accepts this was not the case.

Linden Ltd appeared at the same hearing and pleaded guilty to breaching reg. 5 of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998. It was fined £7500 and ordered to pay £25,000 towards costs.

The company told the court that the accident was not a direct result of its actions and was primarily the fault of Mr Payne. It also said it had fully cooperated with the HSE’s investigation and had no previous convictions.

A spokesperson for the firm said: “We accept that the tyres on the JCB telehandler were lower than the manufacturers recommended pressure.€ᄄ €ᄄ

“We should like to make it clear that there is no causal connection between this offence and the tragic accident that happened on the site.”

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13 years ago

£39.500 the cost of one death and two seriously injured, is it any wonder that H&S is not improving on construction sites when they are fined not even the profit on one house or the cost of the HSE investigation, someone needs to get a serious grip because it is only going to get worse.

13 years ago

Telehandler parked on sloping ground, tyre pressures lower than specified values, extending the boom full reach – thus increasing loading on tyres to the direction of reach – lower pressures means increased flexing of tyres allowing the CoG to move fractionally further out. The contractor then claims that their offense had no causal connection with the death and injuries – who are they trying to kid? Themselves obviously but come on!

13 years ago

An 18 property development – Who controlled the keys for the machine? Who authorised work to start? Who checked the hard-stand for the telehandler? Who arranged the car parking for the site? Who arranged for co-ordination, consultation and communication between the parties on site? Who decided there was no causal connection between the offence and the tragic accident?