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June 16, 2009

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Poor traffic management lands firm GBP 160k fine

A construction firm has been fined £160,000 after a workman was killed by a reversing vehicle at a building site in London.

Robert Caston, 50, was working as a maintenance engineer for facilities management firm Ecovert FM Ltd, when the incident took place on 3 June 2005. The company was responsible for providing heating and ventilation at Eastbury School in Barking.

Bouygues (UK) Ltd, a sister company of Ecovert FM Ltd, had been contracted to build additional teaching space at the school. On the day of the incident Mr Caston was walking across the construction site towards a storage container to collect shelving, which was being installed inside offices at the school.

While he was walking back across the site with the shelves, he crossed a designated vehicles route, and was struck by a reversing telehandler, which was transporting debris. He died at the scene from multiple crush injuries.

HSE inspectors visited the scene and discovered that workers were not adhering to the risk assessment carried out at the site. The project was nearing completion and, owing to fewer people working at the site it, was deemed unnecessary to use a banksman while the vehicle reversed. There were also no barriers in place to prevent pedestrians crossing vehicle routes, and no signs were present to warn about the dangers presented by moving vehicles.

Bouygues (UK) Ltd appeared at Snaresbrook Crown Court on 8 June and pleaded guilty to breaching s3(1) of the HSWA and was fined £160,000. It also pleaded guilty to breaching s2(1) of the same Act but no separate penalty was imposed. The company was ordered to pay £21,698 in costs.

In mitigation, the firm said it had no previous convictions and has subsequently revised its arrangements for temporary traffic management across all of its building sites. It now ensures that a banksman is present at all times and has introduced wholesale segregation of vehicles and pedestrians. It has also introduced pedestrian crossings with appropriate signage to prevent similar accidents.

HSE inspector, Sandy Carmichael, said: “This tragic case highlights the risks from workplace transport. Every year a significant number of people are killed by moving vehicles on construction sites, and a larger number injured. Better training, planning and awareness would reduce a number of these incidents. But equally — if not more — important is that managers and directors make sure that someone is checking that control measures are in place and being used.”

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