Tarmac fined £1.3m after worker crushed to death

Tarmac fined - A feed hopper and conveyor
The feed hopper and conveyor at Mountsorrel Quarry where Luke Branston became trapped (Image: HSE)

Tarmac Aggregates has been fined almost £1.3m after a 26-year-old man was crushed to death during maintenance work at Mountsorrel Quarry, Leicestershire.

Luke Branston, from Leicester, died in the early hours of 21 June 2017 after becoming trapped between a conveyor and a feed hopper.

The contractor, working on behalf of Branston Site Services Ltd, was part of a nightshift maintenance team that was repairing a feed hopper at the Loughborough quarry, operated by Tarmac Aggregates Ltd.

Tarmac fined - A conveyor in a quarry
The conveyor at Mountsorrel Quarry (Image: HSE)

Branston had been standing on a conveyor that was located under the feed hopper and which had not been effectively isolated by cutting the power before the repair work started.

The conveyor was then inadvertently switched on, trapping Branston against the feed hopper and fatally crushing him.

The investigation

A Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation into this incident found Tarmac Aggregates had failed to ensure the feed hopper was properly isolated before the repair work commenced.

The test button on the conveyor electrical panel was not connected to the test circuit and was therefore inoperative. This issue appears to have existed for many years before the incident, meaning Tarmac Aggregates failed to ensure critical defects were recorded and rectified promptly.

HSE said that the company should have also provided a visual and audible pre-start alarm for the conveyor.

A man in front of a racing car.

Luke Branston

Tarmac Aggregates Limited, of Trinity Park, Bickenhill Lane, Birmingham, pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2(1) and Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974. The company was fined £1,275,000 and ordered to pay £200,000 in costs at Leicester Crown Court on 27 September 2023.

Luke’s father, Kevin Branston, said: “We had to sell Luke’s house to help with money pressure. The loss of Luke’s house hurt a lot, it was as if I was losing a memory.

"Sometimes I feel guilty for still being here when Luke’s not. I miss him all the time.”

‘A devastating tragedy’

HSE inspector Adrian Jurg said: “This is a devastating tragedy that claimed the life of a young man. Luke’s family have made clear the impact his passing has had on their lives and our thoughts remain with them.

“When a company like Tarmac profit from the hard work of contractors like Luke then the very least they owe him and his family is a duty to ensure he gets home safe at the end of his shift.

“Companies should be aware that HSE will not hesitate to take appropriate enforcement action against those that fall below the required standards.”

A spokesperson for Tarmac said: “We acknowledge the impact of the tragic incident which occurred at Mountsorrel Quarry in 2017 and we extend our heartfelt condolences to the family and loved ones of Luke Branston. 

“The safety of everyone at our sites is of the highest importance to Tarmac and is the primary focus of our operations every day. We have fully cooperated with the Health and Safety Executive throughout the investigation and have implemented a number of actions to prevent reoccurrence.” 

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