Three construction firms have been ordered to pay a total of more than £400,000 in fines and costs after a man lost his arm during road resurfacing work.
The experienced 53-year-old worker was preparing a chip spreader – used to scatter stone chips on asphalt – on the A1001 in Hatfield, Hertfordshire, when his left arm became entangled in moving parts. It had to be amputated and he has not worked since the accident in March 2012.
The incident was investigated by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), which prosecuted Amey LG Ltd, Lafarge Aggregates Ltd, together acting as Amey Lafarge, a joint venture in charge of the operation, and Ashmac Construction Ltd, who provided workers for the project, for safety breaches at Watford Magistrates’ Court on 25 March.
HSE found that the worker and his colleagues were only given one evening to familiarise themselves with the machine by Amey Lafarge when they started work on site, six months before the incident.
Amey Lafarge gave the workers no instruction or training in how to operate the machine safely, including how to secure guards, nor were they given the operator’s manual for the machine. There was no safe system of work in place to ensure that the machine was set up and operated properly and that its use was restricted to trained personnel.
Ashmac Construction Ltd also failed to take appropriate steps to ensure the workers it placed on site had appropriate information, instruction and training in safely using the chip spreader.
Oxford-based Amey LG Ltd was fined £150,015 after pleading guilty to one breach of Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act1974. Lafarge Aggregates Ltd, of Solihull, was fined £175,015 after admitting the same charge and Ashmac Construction Ltd, of Northampton, also admitted the same offence and was fined £30,015. Each company was ordered to pay £18,000 costs.
HSE Inspector Gavin Bull said after the hearing that the tragedy had been wholly avoidable, adding: “This incident highlights the need for workers to receive the information, instruction and training they need to operate plant safely and for companies to put in place measures to ensure the plant is operated safely on site.”
Construction sector employers need to ensure they take all necessary steps to protect the health and safety of employees, sub-contractors, visitors and members of the public. As well as keeping employees and others safe, investing in health and safety will protect businesses against the time and cost involved in putting right breaches of health and safety, the expense of a potential prosecution and the associated damage to business reputation.
Employers seeking clarification or guidance on their health and safety responsibilities or facing prosecution can find out more by contacting Palmers’ health and safety specialists Lara Murray and Jeremy Sirrell.