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*UPDATE* Kier’s £1.8m penalty for resurfacing banksman’s death

A division of major contractor Kier has been fined £1.8m after a banksman was fatally struck on a 96 kph contraflow while repairing a road surface in Suffolk.  

*UPDATE* Kier’s £1.8m penalty for resurfacing banksman’s death
The road planer in the foreground on the stretch of road where the accident happened

Kier’s subcontractor Sean Hegarty was also fined £75,000 for its role in the accident, which took place on a stretch of the B1063 north of Lidgate. 

The principal contractor, Kier Integrated Services, had employed Sean Hegarty to repair the road surface under a contract it had with Suffolk County Council.

A Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation found that on 13 May 2014, Hegarty workers were using a road planer to remove the tar from the southbound side of the road, while the northbound side had traffic lights to control the direction of the traffic. 

As Hegarty’s flatbed lorry reversed at around 5 kph behind the road planer to collect the debris the planer scraped from the road, the driver saw the banksman lying in the road. He was taken to hospital, but died of extensive injuries. 

The HSE and Suffolk Police said that nobody had witnessed the incident though it was possible a motorist was involved. 

HSE inspector David King told IOSH Magazine: “There were no witnesses [who] saw him falling down to know how the worker came to be on the floor. The investigation could not prove it therefore it would be wrong to suggest exactly what happened.”

King added that there were tyre marks on his clothing and injuries from the postmortem which suggested that he had been crushed by the flatbed lorry. “However, if he’d been hit by a motorist going at speed, he would have sustained similar injuries,” he added.

“What we don’t know is – was he hit by a very heavy vehicle going past that caused impact injuries or was it purely the vehicle in the road? He wouldn’t have been in the road long. The workers are going very slowly, reversing, using their mirrors.” 

The HSE, which was handed the investigation by Suffolk Police in April 2016, found both Kier and Sean Hegarty had failed to design and plan the roadworks so that the road workers and members of the public could move safely around the road surfacing work without the risk of being hit by vehicles. 

“Had the road been closed, he would have had more space to work in. Had the [traffic] speed been limited, the risk would have been less,” he said. 

“In this instance the only control measures in place were cones along the centre of the road,” he said. “You had the road that wasn’t wide enough to have a safety zone and which pushed the workers even nearer to moving vehicles travelling at potentially 96 kph or pushed them nearer to the road planer.”

King said the HSE’s roadworks guidance stipulates a working zone for workers to operate around vehicles and a safety zone beyond that so there is a minimum clearance of 1.2 m between the live lane and work area once the traffic management layout is in place. 

Additional measures the parties could have taken included driving a convoy of vehicles with another works vehicle at the front and installing speeding controls for traffic. “There were options but they weren’t put in place,” he said. 

Kier Integrated Services, pleaded guilty to breaching s 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act at Ipswich Crown Court on 19 December. The Kier division was fined £1.8m and ordered to pay £12,405 in costs.

Felixstowe-based Sean Hegarty pleaded guilty to breaching s 2(2) of the Health and Safety at Work Act. The company was fined £75,000 and ordered to pay £12,405 in costs.

King said both companies co-operated with the HSE’s investigation. As far as he was aware, Kier Integrated Services had implemented additional training for those involved in planning and supervising roadworks.

Sentencing guidelines application

 

Culpability:

High for both

Seriousness of harm risked:

Level A

Likelihood of harm:

Medium

Harm category:

2, moved up to 1

Number of people exposed:

One banksman and around five other workers

Size of organisation:

Kier Integrated Services: large. Sean Hegarty: micro

Turnover:

Kier Integrated Services: Over £500m Sean Hegarty: unknown

Penalty:

Kier Integrated Services: £1.8m plus £12,406 costs. Sean Hegarty: £75,000 plus £12,406 costs

 

Nick Warburton is deputy editor of IOSH Magazine 

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