Uncontrolled vehicle movement kills building worker
One of the most commonly encountered safety risks on any building project is that vehicle movements – material deliveries, on-site mobile machinery and miscellaneous – are not controlled properly. People must be kept clear of the vehicles and when they have to interact with them, they must do so safely.
In July 2010 there was a building project to create a coffee shop in the foyer of the Odeon Cinema in Ashton-on-Ribble, Lancs. EMC Contracts Ltd of Preston got the contract to carry out the works, and as part of their risk assessment planning they wrote a method statement which correctly identified vehicle movements as a risk to pedestrians. This was all too true, because the work was planned for the summer school holidays when many children and parents would be milling about the cinema.
Method statement incomplete
The method statement, however, failed to go on to say exactly what was to be done to minimise risk. It could have, for example –
- Instructed drivers not to reverse in the site area
- Forbidden any vehicles to enter the immediate operating zone
- Used a second man to signal to the driver when it was safe to reverse
In the absence of any such instructions, work went on.
On 27th July 2010, an EMC Contracts van offloaded a consignment of building materials, on a paved area outside the cinema entrance where there were no restrictions to prevent worker or public access. The driver then reversed, intending to park the van beside the cinema. He was unaware that site painter Carl Green (45) was crossing right behind the van at that moment. Mr. Green was hit by the van and tragically he died from his injuries.
Heavy fine, but irrecoverable?
As is so often the case after such terrible incidents, the company concerned has ceased trading. It is not clear from the case report whether it is due to the accident or due to other trading problems, but EMC Contracts Ltd was later put into voluntary liquidation, thus any fines are probably not reclaimable. The delay of three and a half years before the matter came to court is typical of fatal cases and no doubt reflects the amount of investigation that has to go on: but it surely reduces the chances of any sentence being meaningful. In this case, the hearing at Preston Crown Court went on for eight days, with all of the associated trauma for the family and the cost to the public purse of the proceedings. The fine was £130,000 plus £52,790 in prosecution costs but these figures are surely notional.
As the HSE Inspector pointed out, “EMC did not take any action to ensure its vehicles operated safely on the paved area in front of the cinema, therefore putting members of the public and its own employees in danger.” This should act as a warning to all those responsible for construction health and safety that vehicle movements, not just of big trucks but vans too, must be closely controlled.