Three road construction firms have been ordered to pay more than £400,000 after a road worker lost his arm during a surfacing job in Hertfordshire.
The 53-year-old was preparing a chip spreader – a machine used to scatter stone chips on asphalt – for resurfacing works on the A1001 in Hatfield when his left arm became caught in the machine’s rotating auger, causing serious injuries.
The highly-experienced worker, from Rushden, Northamptonshire, who does not wish to be named, had to have his arm amputated shortly after the incident and has been unable to return to work since.
The incident, on 8 March 2012, was investigated by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), which prosecuted Amey LG, Lafarge Aggregates (acting as Amey Lafarge, a joint venture in charge of the operation) and Ashmac Construction, who provided workers to the joint venture, for multiple safety breaches at Watford Magistrates’ Court.
The court was told that, in order to prepare the chip spreader for use, the worker placed on the site by Ashmac Construction started the machine and the rotation of its internal auger. He also repositioned the machine’s distribution hopper from kerbside to roadside to allow chips to be loaded – an operation which involved moving the mesh safety guard from one side of the machine to the other.
As he was reaching to move the guard across he tripped and fell forward towards the still-rotating auger, entangling his arm in dangerous moving parts as he fell.
HSE’s investigation revealed a series of safety failings on the part of all three companies.
HSE found the worker, who was not formally trained in the use of the spreader, and his colleagues were only given one evening to familiarise themselves with the machine by Amey Lafarge when they started work on site six months before the incident.
Amey Lafarge did not give the workers any instruction or training in how to operate the machine safely, including how to secure guards, nor were they given a copy of the operator’s manual for the machine. In addition, there was no safe system of work in place to ensure that the machine was set up and operated properly and that its use was restricted to those who were trained.
The joint venture did have a risk assessment and a site-specific method statement but these did not reflect the reality of the controls in place for the use of the chip spreader. Indeed, the risk assessment described a different type of chip spreader than the one used on site.
Ashmac Construction did not take reasonably practicable steps to ensure workers that it placed on site and allocated to operate the chipper had received appropriate information, instruction and training in the safe use of the plant.
Amey LG was fined £150,015, Lafarge Aggregates was fined £175,015 and Ashmac Construction was fined £30,015. They all pleaded guilty to safety breaches and were ordered to pay costs of £18,000.
Following the case, HSE Inspector Gavin Bull, said: “This tragic incident has left a worker with life-changing injuries. It was wholly avoidable. The risks associated with plant operating are well-known in the industry.
“This incident highlights the need for workers to receive the information, instruction and training they need to operate plant safely and for companies to put in place measures to ensure the plant is operated safely on site.”