Balfour Beatty fined after death following plant refuelling

One of the UK’s largest construction contractors has been fined after an employee of Balfour Beatty Group Employment Ltd. was fatally injured when he was struck on the body by a wheeled excavator. Aberdeen Sheriff Court heard that between 4 January 2016 and 13 January 2016 Balfour Beatty Civil Engineering Limited, being a Principal Contractor, failed to ensure that the safe system of work for refuelling of all plant and equipment was fully implemented at the construction site of the Third Don Crossing in Aberdeen. As a consequence of that failure; the deceased, who was working at said construction site, was struck by a wheeled excavator which was slewing after being refuelled.

Balfour Beatty Civil Engineering Limited pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 13(1) of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015 and has been fined £600,000.

Investigations by HSE Inspectors found that the refuelling of plant and equipment on the site had been identified as being a high-risk activity by the Principal Contractor. As such; they had undertaken a risk assessment and developed a task-specific briefing document; detailing a safe system of work to be followed during the refuelling of plant and vehicles.

However, investigations established that whilst these written procedures existed; the same safe system of work and the specified risk control measures within it had not been fully implemented on the construction site that was under their control.

Speaking after the hearing; Principal Inspector for the HSE, Niall Miller said: “This was a tragic and wholly avoidable incident, caused by the failure of the civil engineering company to implement safe systems of work, and to ensure that health and safety documentation was communicated, and control measures followed.”

NOTE: This case highlights the duty on Principal Contractors; in that they must plan, manage and monitor the construction phase and coordinate matters relating to health and safety to ensure that, so far as is reasonably practicable, construction work is carried out without risks to health or safety. Further, in fulfilling these duties; and in particular when design, technical and organisational aspects are being decided on (in order to plan the various items or stages of work which are to take place simultaneously or in succession); then the Principal Contractor must take into account the general principles of prevention; as established under regulation 4 (and at Schedule 1) to the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999. In this case; suitable arrangements were in place (a defined safe system of work) but it was not implemented. Arguably; a failure of site managers and supervisors to monitor the work; so as to ensure (refuelling for example) was carried out safely.

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Authors: Ernie Taylor

Published: 20 Apr 2019

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