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Building company fined after employee struck by digger bucket

Date:
12 January 2015

A building company has been fined for safety failings after an employee broke his back when he was struck by the bucket on a digger. 

RMC Building and Civil Engineering Ltd was prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) following an investigation into the incident at the Longleat Estate in Warminster.

Swindon Magistrates’ Court heard today (12 Jan) that the company had been hired to install fencing around the estate in January 2014. Peter McGrellis, who was 48 and living in Westbury at the time, was one of three employees carrying out the work, which involved using a digger to push wooden fence posts into the ground. 

The posts were held by hand whilst the operator of the digger rested the bucket on top of the post and applied downward pressure to it. 

On 16 January, Mr McGrellis was holding one of the posts ready for the digger to push it down. The top of the post split, causing the bucket to slip and hit Mr McGrellis on the shoulder, knocking him to the ground. 

He suffered significant injuries including a broken vertebra. Mr McGrellis was in hospital for over a week and he still suffers with pain. 

An HSE investigation found that the company failed to plan, manage and monitor the work. The method statement prepared by the company for the operation indicated a piece of equipment called a post driver was going to be used to drive the posts into the ground but that the digger may be used to position the posts. A post driver had been ordered along with a smaller digger but it arrived after the incident happened. 

The investigation also found that while a risk assessment had been produced, it made no reference to the risk of working close to the digger.  

RMC Building & Civil Engineering Ltd, of Perivale Business Park, Horsenden Lane, Greenford, London, was fined £1,500 and ordered to pay costs of £1,117 after pleading guilty to a single breach of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998. 

Speaking after the hearing, HSE Inspector Ian Whittles said: “The use of excavator vehicles in such a manner is dangerous and is known to cause injury. The serious failure of RMC Building & Civil Engineering in not managing this job properly led to this avoidable incident and unfortunately Mr McGrellis suffered as a result. 

“Workers have a right to expect that the equipment they use is appropriate for the task – on this occasion the equipment used was clearly not suitable for the job. 

“Anyone in control of construction projects must ensure the work is properly planned and thoroughly risk-assessed to avoid such incidents.” 

Further information on construction site safety can be found on the HSE website at http://www.hse.gov.uk/construction

Notes to Editors 

1.         The 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.      Regulation 4(3) of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998  states: “Every employer shall ensure that work equipment is used only for operations for which, and under conditions for which, it is suitable.” 

3.         HSE news releases are available at www.hse.gov.uk/press.

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