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March 22, 2012

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Surveyor killed by reversing lorry on M25 expansion project

A major construction firm has been fined £250,000 following the death of a worker during a multi-million pound project to widen the M25 motorway.

Maidstone Crown Court heard that Costain Ltd was contracted to build an additional lane on each side of the M25 between junctions 1b and 3 as part of a £65 million scheme to ease traffic congestion.

On 8 April 2008, Richard Caddock, 38, who worked as a surveyor for the company, arrived at the site to locate some missing nails. At the same time a tipper lorry arrived with a delivery of crushed stone. The vehicle accessed the site via a maintenance entrance, which was located approximately 420 metres away from an excavation site on the central reservation, where the delivery needed to be unloaded.

Because there was no room for the lorry to turn, the driver began reversing it down the central reservation. The site’s banksman was not available and a traffic marshal had no means of contacting him to ask for assistance. As the lorry was reversing, Mr Caddock was walking down the central reservation and speaking on his phone, so he was unable to hear the vehicle as it approached him due to the noise of motorway traffic. The truck hit him and he died at the scene from crush injuries.

The HSE investigated the incident and learned that, in addition to his unavailability the banksman was not adequately trained. There had also been a similar incident at the site three months earlier, when a worker suffered a broken ankle, having been hit by a reversing vehicle.

HSE inspector Melvyn Stancliffe said: “This was a terrible tragedy that could easily have been avoided had Costain Ltd implemented basic safety precautions.

“Mr Caddock may have been distracted on the phone, but the drone of nearby traffic was such that he would have struggled to hear the reversing alarm on the lorry regardless. Quite simply, the two should never have been allowed to be in the same place at the same time.

“The movement of people and vehicles on construction sites requires careful planning and effective control. It must be considered a critical part of transport management. This case highlights that a failure to be in control can have devastating consequences.”

Costain Ltd appeared in court on 20 March and pleaded guilty to breaching s2(1) of the HSWA 1974. In addition to the fine it was ordered to pay £44,000 in costs.

In mitigation, the company said it immediately suspended work at the site, following the incident, until a review of its safety procedures had been concluded. It subsequently prohibited vehicles from reversing down the area.

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