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Posted by David Cant on April 30, 2013
We all understand the need to cut costs and keep expenses low whilst trying to deliver on time, on target and to standard.
But there are times when cost cutting should be cut out completely, and this is certainly very true in the tragic case in Wiltshire where a 28 year old contractor was killed due entirely to the attempt by his employer to halve staffing costs.
Tarmac Cutter Safety Failings
In July 2009, 28 year old Stuart Guard was sent out with a tarmac cutter in Box, Wiltshire. Tarmac cutters are small plant machines with a powerful cutting blade at the front, used to slice and cut tarmac in preparation for work on pipes underground.
Typically these cutters have a whole raft of safety features built in to them to prevent any kind of accident, but in this case the employer deliberately disabled these safety systems in order to save money. It was this act which resulted in the tragic death of Mr Guard.
Multiple Safety Features Deliberately Disabled
During the operation of these tarmac cutters it is usually necessary to change the picks at the front, and this is a task designed for two people.
It is also a task which should not be carried out whilst the blades are still moving, and to prevent this from being possible a safety switch is fitted under the driver’s seat. Once the driver exits the vehicle, this safety switch is triggered and the blades are brought to a complete halt.
However, the employer, South and West Highways Trenching, deliberately disabled this safety switch, and indeed did so on all of the tarmac cutters in its fleet.
This was so that a driver could change the picks over by himself, which was possible if the blades were still moving. By doing this, the employer was effectively able to half the staffing requirements, but of course placing its employees in terrible, and very real danger.
Following the death of Mr Guard South and West Highways Trenching have been fined £100,000 and been ordered to pay £56,890 in costs.
The Health And Safety Requirement Flouted
At Veritas Consulting we find it hard to believe that an employer today can still so blatantly flout Health and Safety law, and place cost cutting above the value of the lives of its employees.
Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 makes it very clear that “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.”
Make sure that your business is taking care of its employees by having our health and safety consultants work with you to provide full safety checks, audits and training. Our highly experienced health and safety advisors are available on 0800 1488 677.
This post has been filed in: Construction health and safety