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Firms in court after worker killed in quarry

23 December 2014

A quarry operator and contractor have been ordered to pay a total of £237,500 in fines and costs after a worker was killed when he became trapped under a large stone crushing machine. 

Gary Ian Ward, 43, of Crook, was working for Ward Bros (Plant Hire) Ltd as a mechanical fitter when the incident happened on 19 February 2009 at Divethill Quarry in Northumberland, which is owned by CEMEX UK Materials Ltd. 

The incident was investigated by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), which today (23 Dec) prosecuted both companies for serious safety failings. 

Newcastle Crown Court heard how Mr Ward, the nephew of the company’s chairman, was told there was a problem with the conveyor on a large mobile crushing machine. He went underneath to identify the cause of the problem and while he was there the crusher moved, trapping Mr Ward, who subsequently died from asphyxiation. 

A HSE investigation found the movement of the machine was caused by a failure of the insulation on an electrical control wire causing a ground fault. This would have been prevented if the machine had been isolated or locked off from its power source before any maintenance activity took place. 

The quarry rules required a permit for the work being undertaken by Mr Ward, which would have meant the crusher had to be isolated and signed off by a supervisor or manager. No permit was issued and it was discovered there was no lock off facility on the machine. 

HSE also established that there was no effective supervision of the work being done by Mr Ward by either company. 

In addition the investigation found that the crushing machine was in a poorly maintained condition, that some of the workers using the machine were not qualified to operate it, and that safety records for some Ward Bros (Plant Hire) Ltd employees were not up to date. 

Ward Bros (Plant Hire) Ltd, of Thistle Road, Littleburn Industrial Estate, Langley Moor, County Durham, pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. The company was fined £85,000 and ordered to pay £55,000 in costs. 

CEMEX UK Materials Ltd, of CEMEX House, Coldharbour Lane, Thorpe Egham, Surrey, pleaded guilty to breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. The company was fined £60,000 and ordered to pay £37,500 in costs. The court accepted the breaches CEMEX UK admitted to were not causative of Mr Ward’s death. 

After the hearing, HSE inspector Martin Baillie said: “A quarry is a dangerous work environment and the quarry operator and contractors who work there need to ensure that health and safety is properly and effectively managed. Ward Bros (Plant Hire) and CEMEX failed to properly manage and control the work activity at Divethill Quarry. They failed to ensure that the requirements of both their own rules and those required by regulation were met. 

“Employers have a duty to manage and control work activity to ensure it is done safely. It is not enough to just put rules in place. Monitoring the work activity and ensuring there is adequate supervision in place are essential components of a safe system of work. Sadly both were absent in this instance.” 


Notes to Editors

  1. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is Britain’s national regulator for workplace health and safety. It aims to reduce work-related death, injury and ill health. It does so through research, information and advice, promoting training, new or revised regulations and codes of practice, and working with local authority partners by inspection, investigation and enforcement. 
  2. Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 states: “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.” 
  3. Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 states: “It shall be the duty of every employer to conduct his undertaking in such a way as to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that persons not in his employment who may be affected thereby are not thereby exposed to risks to their health or safety.” 
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