Late last week, Trafford Magistrates Court handed down a £5,000 fine (together with £12,000 of court costs) to a demolition contractor that was found to be instrumental in an accident in which one of its workers suffered serious injuries when a two tonne slab of concrete fell onto the cab of the excavator he was operating.
Faster Decisions Could Save Lives
The accident happened at Old Trafford Cricket Ground – home of the Lancashire Country Cricket Club – on 26 April 2011. Which begs the question: why did it take so long for this prosecution to be brought before magistrates? Assuming that the primary objective of the Health and Safety Executive is to prevent future accidents by highlighting those that have happened in the past, surely 19 months is too long for the guilty company – and, possibly, many more like it to continue with bad practices?
Speaking after the hearing in which Warrington-based Excavation and Contracting pleaded guilty to breaching the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007, HSE inspector Alan Pojur said: “The excavator driver was lucky not to have been killed. His life was put in danger because Excavation and Contracting (UK) Ltd didn’t plan the work properly. They should have arranged for a high-reach excavator to be used so that the stand could be demolished from a safe distance away.”
In truth, the need for a high reach excavator on this contract was clear for all to see when CCTV footage of the incident was released. So quite why it took 19 months to make that advice public is something of a mystery.
Of course, accidents require thorough investigation, and I am certainly not advocating any form of corner cutting in this important process. But a year and a half – during which the guilty company and many others like it could have been merrily sticking with a clearly hazardous working method – is surely too long.
Worst of all, this accident happened before the implementation of the HSE’s Fee for Intervention cost recovery scheme and the latest round of cuts in the number of HSE inspectors. Who knows how long such a decision might take in today’s health and safety landscape.
The time has surely come for the HSE to publish its findings as soon as they are complete, and to allow the actual prosecution process to follow a close second.
In the meantime, the law is less of an ass, and more of a tortoise.
Guest post by Mark Anthony of Demolition News