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Safety failings at M25 construction site led to worker’s death

Date:
11 July 2014

A Slough construction firm and a bulldozer operator have been sentenced for serious safety failings after a worker was run over and killed while working on the M25 widening project.

Mihai Hondru, 39, of Barkingside, Ilford, suffered multiple crush injuries and died at the scene when he was struck by a reversing bulldozer near Junction 29 at Upminster on 20 October 2010.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) prosecuted J McArdle Contracts Ltd and bulldozer operator Stephen Blackmore after an investigation into the incident identified safety failings. J McArdle Contracts Ltd was sentenced today (11 July) at Chelmsford Crown Court. Stephen Blackmore was sentenced at an earlier hearing.

The Court was told that Mr Hondru was employed by J McArdle Contracts Ltd, which was managing the rebuilding of the motorway embankment.

Mr Hondru’s job was directing lorries to the correct position on the embankment for them to tip their loads of soil. Stephen Blackmore’s job was then to level the tipped soil with his bulldozer.

As Mr Hondru was helping a lorry driver manoeuvre his vehicle into position, he was struck by the reversing bulldozer, driven by Mr Blackmore.

HSE inspectors found that after carrying out a risk assessment, J McArdle had implemented a one-way system to minimise the risks to pedestrians from the moving vehicles.

However, on the day of the incident, ground conditions had changed which meant the lorries had to reverse into position but inadequate safety measures were put in place to protect those workers operating near the reversing bulldozer.

In addition, Stephen Blackmore failed to take sufficient account of Mihai Hondru’s presence in his immediate vicinity.  Rather than making sure he knew exactly where Mr Hondru was, he assumed he was not in his way or that Mr Hondru would move out of his way when he reversed his bulldozer.

J McArdle Contracts Ltd – now in liquidation – of McArdle House, McArdle Way, Colnbrook, Slough, was handed a fine of £2,000 after being found guilty of breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. The judge commented on sentencing that if the company had still been trading the fine would have been £200,000.

Stephen Blackmore, 54, of Rydon Farm, Talaton, Devon, was also found guilty of breaching Regulation 37(3)(a) of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007. He was given a six month prison sentence, suspended for 12 months, and ordered to pay costs of £2,500.

Speaking after the case HSE Inspector Sandy Carmichael said:

“Mihai Hondru’s death was a needless tragedy, all the more so because it was preventable. Safe operation of heavy plant, including bulldozers, means continuously checking that pedestrians are clear of moving vehicles.

“What had seemed like a small change in the task was really very significant. Construction work needs good planning – and good planning includes thorough risk assessment.

“Any modification to the plan means the risks need to be re-considered very carefully. Re-assessing risk when circumstances change is crucial, as this tragic incident clearly shows.

“Mr Hondru’s death could have easily been avoided if the transport operations had been properly managed and there had been good vigilance by everyone involved.”

On average, each year seven workers die as a result of incidents involving vehicles or mobile plant on construction sites. A further 93 are seriously injured. For more information about traffic management on construction sites log onto the HSE website at: http://www.hse.gov.uk/construction/safetytopics/vehiclestrafficmanagement.htm

Notes to Editors

  1. Health and Safety Executive 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. www.hse.gov.uk
  2. 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.”
  3. Regulation 37(3)(a) of the Construction Design and Management Regulations 2007 states: “Any vehicle being used for the purposes of construction shall, when being driving, operated or towed, be driven, operated or towed in such a manner as is safe in the circumstances.”
  4. HSE news releases are available at http://press.hse.gov.uk.

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