Site protects the public but fails to protect the workers


Any operating site, construction or otherwise, has a double health and safety obligation: to protect and segregate the public from the operation: and to safeguard its workers. Here is a case where the first obligation was met, but sadly not the second.

This was a waste management operation in Canvey Island, Essex run by May Gurney (now acquired by Kier MG Ltd).

The centre had, as HSE inspectors acknowledged, tackled the hazards that inevitably exist for members of the public at such household waste recycling sites, strictly keeping them away from vehicle movements. However, the company neglected to protect its workers when loading skips.

On 26th January 2013, an unnamed local worker (29) was making a skip ready for being picked up. The operator of the skip truck loader was getting it into position for the pick-up operation but the loader hit the young worker, who was trapped in a narrow gap between the fully-loaded skip and a site fence.

The man broke all of his ribs, causing both lungs to collapse;

He had injuries to his back and shoulder;

The back of his skull was chipped;

And there were further injuries to his left leg, and cuts and bruises.

Royal London Hospital induced a coma to protect him, which lasted for three days. His stay in hospital lasted 17 days. Once discharged, he required a lot of physiotherapy to regain his health. He stayed with his parents for 8 weeks to be monitored and looked after.

Sadly, he has not gone back to work as he has suffered a post-traumatic stress disorder. Obviously, this has had a terrible impact on his life with his partner, his children and extended family.

Kier MG Ltd, of Sandy, Bedfordshire, took over May Gurney and thus had to appear at Chelmsford Crown Court where it received a very large fine of £160,000 in view of the seriousness of the case. Costs of £9,809 were also payable. The company pleaded guilty to a breach Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. 1974 Act and also Regulation 17(1) of the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992.

The very apposite comments from the investigating HSE Inspector (Edward Crick) were:

The consequences of this were devastating for a young man, who will now have to cope with life-changing injuries for the rest of his life. The risks to pedestrians when they are near operating work vehicles are very serious, but also well-known within industry. There is no excuse, therefore, for companies to disregard vital elements of workplace safety.

At McCormack Benson Health & Safety we work mostly in the area of construction safety, but this is a closely allied business and the dangers are the same as those that afflict any building site, dealing as it must with the need to remove waste safely without endangering workers.

Guidance about working safely near workplace vehicles can be found here.
Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. 1974 Act:

It shall be the duty of every employer to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of all his employees.

Regulation 17(1) of the Workplace [Health, Safety and Welfare] Regulations, 1992:

Every workplace shall be organised in such a way that pedestrians and vehicles can circulate in a safe manner.