Construction firm fined £146,000 after worker crushed to death by excavator

A construction company has been ordered to pay more than £150,000 after a worker was crushed to death by a 20-tonne excavator.

The scene at Monks Pond, near Ashbourne in Derbyshire, where Philip McDonald ws killed. Photo: Health & Safety Executive
The scene at Monks Pond, near Ashbourne in Derbyshire, where Philip McDonald ws killed. Photo: Health & Safety Executive

Birch Brothers (Kidderminster) Ltd appeared at Kidderminster Magistrates' Court on Thursday in connection with the death of Philip McDonald.

Mr McDonald was killed at a construction site in Derbyshire in September 2017. The court heard how he had been hired to help build a concrete overflow weir structure and was waiting with colleagues on a road above the work area for the excavator to remove sand from trench boxes..

During this operation the digger rotated clockwise, crushing the 48-year-old.

Magistrates were told that Birch Brothers (Kidderminster) Ltd was the principal contractor at the site near Ashbourne, and had hired steel fixers and joiners to undertake the work.

A Health and Safety Executive-led (HSE) investigation found a number of failings, including a lack of adequate planning and a lack of instructions for the digger operator. Workers who were on foot in the area near the excavator had not received safety instructions either.

The HSE also found that there was no segregation of pedestrians and machinery, no banksman appointed to ensure workers were safe while the excavator was in use, and nobody to make sure work was being carried out safely.

After Mr McDonald's death a prohibition notice was served, stopping any work involving mobile plant or vehicles until the site had been safely reorganised.

After pleading guilty in October 2022, the firm returned to court on Thursday for sentencing.

The scene at Monks Pond, near Ashbourne in Derbyshire, where Philip McDonald ws killed. Photo: Health & Safety Executive

Magistrates issued a £146,000 fine, costs of £4,621.90 and a surcharge of £170, bringing the total financial penalty to £150,719.90.

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.”

The company, which was based at Barracks Road, Sandy Lane Industrial Estate, Stourport-on-Severn, was wound up in September 2022.

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