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January 22, 2010

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Unqualified workers had access to site vehicles

A construction firm has been fined £80,000 after a worker was crushed to death while operating a mini digger.

Gloucester Crown Court heard that Macob Administration Ltd had been contracted to carry out groundworks during the construction of a large residential property in Abbeymead, Gloucester.

On 11 February 2005, Lance Taylor, 23, was driving a dumper truck to transport topsoil across the site. One of his colleagues was operating a mini digger to load the soil into the truck. After a number of journeys, the digger operator told Mr Taylor that he was needed on another part of the site, and he should find another colleague to operate the digger. But Mr Taylor began using the vehicle himself, despite not being qualified to use the machine.

While he was operating the digger, a colleague approached him to ask if he had the keys to another vehicle on the site. He leant through an opening in the front windscreen, and threw the keys to his colleague. As he repositioned back into his seat, he knocked a control lever, which raised the vehicle’s digging arm and crushed his head against the roof of the cab. He died at the scene from serious head injuries.

The HSE’s investigation revealed that other workers on the site were also operating vehicles without having been trained, and there were inadequate control measures for accessing machine keys. Inspector Martin Lee said: “This terrible incident highlights the extremely serious risks posed by equipment and vehicles on sites if the workers using them don’t have adequate training, or are not versed in safe working procedures.

“Mr Taylor and other site workers were not all properly trained to use the equipment they were handling and, just as seriously, vehicle keys were routinely left in the machines. As a result, the vehicles were accessible to anyone on site, regardless of their qualifications.

“It is imperative that on any construction site using plant and machinery there are systems in place to control access to the vehicles. Construction site managers need to know which workers on site are qualified to operate the machinery, and that their control systems are working effectively.”

Macob Administration Ltd appeared in court on 15 January and pleaded guilty to breaching reg. 9(1) of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998, for allowing an untrained worker to operate a vehicle, and reg. 28(a) of the same legislation, for allowing unauthorised access to the machine. It was fined £40,000 for each offence and £29,798 in costs.

In mitigation, the firm said it has worked closely with a health and safety consultancy to review its working procedures across all sites. It has also introduced a system to restrict vehicle access, which ensures that only trained operatives can have access to vehicle keys.

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