£146k fine for company after joiner crushed to death by 20-tonne excavator

£146k fine for company after joiner crushed to death by 20-tonne excavator.

Philip McDonald had been hired by Birch Brothers (Kidderminster) Ltd to assist with the construction of a concrete overflow weir structure at Monks Pond, near Ashbourne in Derbyshire.

The 48-year-old, from Alfreton, was with colleagues on a road above the work area waiting for the excavator to remove sand from trench boxes when it rotated clockwise and crushed him.

Kidderminster Magistrates Court heard that the Principal Contractor, Birch Brothers (Kidderminster) Ltd, had hired in steel fixers and joiners to undertake the work before tragedy struck on 5 September 2017.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that the work had not been adequately planned, and no instruction had been given to the digger operator, or to pedestrians who were working in the area. The risks associated with the work had not been adequately assessed either, and there was no segregation of pedestrians and plant in this area of the site.

The company had not appointed a banksman to ensure the safety of pedestrians while the vehicle was in operation and there was also nobody to oversee this element of the work to ensure it was carried out safely.

Following the incident, a Prohibition Notice was served stopping further work involving mobile plant/vehicles until the site had been organised in such a way in that pedestrians and vehicles could move without risks to safety.

Birch Brothers (Kidderminster) Ltd of Barracks Road, Sandy Lane Industrial Estate, Stourport-on-Severn, DY13 9QB, pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 27(1) of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015 and were fined £146k and ordered to pay costs of £4,621.90

In September 2022, the company appointed liquidators.

HSE Inspector Katherine Cotton said, “This was a tragic incident that was easily preventable.  Those in control of work have a responsibility to organise their sites and devise safe methods of working, in relation to vehicles and pedestrians, and ensure they are implemented.

“Construction site vehicle incidents can and should be prevented by the effective management of transport operations throughout the construction process.

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

20th January 2023

What we think

Construction Design and Management Regulations (CDM) 2015

Regulation 27 (1) stipulates that a construction site must be organised in such a way that, so far as is reasonably practicable, pedestrians and vehicles can move without risks to health or safety.

It would appear that the Principal Contractor had not adequately planned the work or carried out a suitable and sufficient assessment of the risks associated with this work.  When planning and carrying out a risk assessment high risk work involving excavators, the assessor should consider Excavator Hazards including:

  • Movement
  • Slewing
  • Working

The above could result in the excavator striking a pedestrian, especially when reversing or someone could become trapped between the excavator and a fixed structure when slewing. There is also the potential for a person could be struck by the bucket or other attachment during operation or if the bucket inadvertently falls from the machine.

Controlling the risk

Exclusion – Prevent people from getting too close to the working area where plant is in operation. A good way of achieving this is to create an exclusion zone with robust barriers and appropriate signs.

Clearance – Prevent contact with slewing parts of the excavator. This can be achieved by ensuring there a clearance of at least 0.5m of the equipment.

Visibility – Ensure excavators with the best all-round view for operators are provided for the job. Equipment with visibility aids such as cameras are the best option for improving vibility of work areas.

Banksman / Marshal –  It is good practice to put in place a Banksman or Marshal to oversee the movement / operation of plant, especially reversing manouvres.

Bucket Attachement – Quick hitches can be used to secure buckets and other attachments to the excavator arm. The excavator must be compatible with quick hitches so this should be checked rather than assuming it can be used.

Training and Competence

Appropriate training must be provided to Drivers/Operators i.e. CPCS Card, Banksman/Marshal to ensure they are able to direct excavation operations and movement and Pedestrians should be provided with information and instruction on safe pedestrian routes and procedures for making their presence known to plant operators


How we can help

Wiser Safety have a variety of solutions including the development of:

We are also able to offer cost effective eLearning, Training (CPCS and Banksman / Vehicle Marshal) and Toolbox Talks for workers, that can be delivered either in person or via video conferencing.

Contact us now to discuss a workable solution. Please feel free to Call Us on 01732 446503 or Message Us