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Construction company fined after worker dies in excavator accident

HACS Construction Limited was fined £330,500 after a worker was struck on the head and killed by a 16-ton excavator.

The fatal accident happened on 13 January 2021, when Dean Myers, a 56-year-old employee of the company, was undertaking groundwork activities in a partially excavated trench at a site in Ripon, North Yorkshire.

A manhole with construction items.
The construction site in Ripon, North Yorkshire (Image: HSE)

The groundworks team had been preparing the trench for the laying of new drainage. Myers had moved to the foot of an existing manhole adjacent to the trench when the excavator was reported to have met resistance whilst digging.

With nothing in place to prevent his entry into the danger zone of the excavator, Myers exited the manhole via a makeshift opening to investigate.

However, the excavator driver and other workers were not in a position to see that he had entered the danger zone. It is here that the excavator bucket swung into Myers, striking him on the head causing catastrophic injuries to his face and head. 

He was pronounced dead at the scene by the ambulance service.

Failure to identify and assess risks

HSE’s investigation found that HACS Construction had failed to identify or assess the risk arising from using the existing manhole chamber as an improvised refuge.

This meant the company failed to implement a system whereby workers were prevented from entering the dangerous working zone of the excavator while the machine was being operated by a driver with limited sight.

HSE said there was also inadequate supervision on site, alongside a failure to carry out monitoring visits which would have identified crucial safety failings.

HACS Construction Limited of Station Yard, Ripley, North Yorkshire, pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2 (1) of the Health & Safety at Work etc Act 1974 at Leeds Magistrates’ Court on 24 January. The company was fined £330,500 and ordered to pay £9,141.80 costs.

After the hearing, HSE inspector Ben Caines said: “The company should have put in place measures including the use of trained plant marshals for high-risk activities, such as the work Mr Myers was undertaking. Such measures are widely recognised and used across the construction industry as well as being advised within HSE and industry guidance.”

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