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August 3, 2009

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Lack of traffic management left workers exposed to risk

A waste-transfer station failed to safely segregate workers from vehicles, which contributed to an employee being crushed to death by a shovel loader.

Frederick Aubery was working as a demolition worker for John Stacey and Sons Ltd at the firm’s site in Tadley, Winchester, when the incident took place on 1 June 2007. He and two colleagues were hand-sorting demolition waste to separate recyclable materials from landfill.

A fourth worker, Paul Kissock, was transporting waste across the site using a shovel loader. He saw Mr Aubery and his colleagues sifting through the waste and decided to park his vehicle and help them. While they were carrying out this process a skip lorry arrived containing two skips of waste. The driver asked Kissock to use the shovel loader to tip out the waste from one of the skips.

Kissock got inside the loader and warned his colleagues that he was about to move the vehicle. However, as he began reversing, Mr Aubery moved behind the loader and was run over by two of the machine’s wheels. Kissock only became aware that he had struck Mr Aubery when a colleague shouted at him to stop the vehicle. Mr Aubery suffered severe crush injuries to his chest and legs and died in hospital five days later.

John Stacey and Sons appeared at Basingstoke Magistrates’ Court on 29 June and pleaded guilty to breaching s2(1) of the HSWA 1974, and reg.3(1) of the MHSWR. The case was referred to Winchester Crown Court for sentencing on 29 July, where the company was fined £60,000 and ordered to pay full costs of £29,061.

In mitigation, the firm said it had no previous convictions and had fully complied with the HSE’s investigation. Within two days of the accident it had created a new safe system of work, which included segregation of vehicles and pedestrians, and the erection of a safety cage that workers stand inside when vehicles need to enter the area where they are operating.

HSE inspector David Bibby told SHP: “This case highlights the importance of assessing risks and putting adequate controls in place to protect pedestrians from vehicles, and the tragic consequences when this is not properly done. The practice of totting had only been going on at the company for about two weeks prior to the incident and they had not recognised that by doing this people were being unnecessarily exposed to the risk of vehicles moving around them, with nothing to protect them.

“This shows the importance of having safe means of retreats for workers, or a system of work in place that protects pedestrians from coming into contact with moving vehicles.”

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