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Building firm fined £30k after digger accident could have killed employee

Building firm fined £30k after digger accident could have killed employee

Friday 21 April 2023

Building firm fined £30k after digger accident could have killed employee

Friday 21 April 2023

A Jersey construction company has been fined more than £30,000 after an employee tipped over a five-tonne digger while working on a luxury property – and narrowly missed hitting a bollard which could have killed him.

Hacquoil and Cook pleaded guilty in the Royal Court in February this year to two counts of breaching health and safety legislation, by failing to maintain a "safe system of work" for an employee who was tasked with loading stone slabs with the excavator.

The company had not sufficiently checked whether their employee had an up-to-date training certification or was competent to lift slabs with the machine, the court heard.

The incident, which took place at a property near to Winston Churchill Park in February last year, involved the excavation of two separate loads of pallets, each weighing three quarters of a tonne, which caused the excavator to tip and nearly injure the employee, with CCTV of the incident shown at court.

It was noted by the site manager that the arm of the excavator was overextended prior to the incident, which contributed to the collapse of the machine. Whilst nobody was injured, the employee involved was signed off from work for one week with stress and shock.

Royal Court

Pictured: The sentencing took place in the Royal Court this morning.

Advocate Luke Sette, prosecuting, said: "No training had been provided by the company, no formal assessment of using the excavator had been carried out."

He added that the employee had not informed the company that he wasn’t qualified to perform the action, the employee said that he was "just trying to do my best".

"He [the employee] was verbally told what needed to be done."

Advocate Sette added: "The site manager had cause to mention to keep the load [of slabs] closer to the cab and to retract the arm [of the excavator] as he felt that it was extended."

"The general public was not exposed to risk, the risk of slabs falling into Winston Churchill Park was a minute one," said Advocate Sette.

A fine of £25,000 was recommended to the court by the Advocate, which the defence labelled as "not unreasonable".

Meanwhile, Advocate Christina Hall, defending, said her client "has suffered reputational damage which is significant for a company of this nature".

The court heard that Hacquoil and Cook had a company turnover of £14 million last year.

Advocate Hall argued that when it came to health and safety practices other companies "look up to" Hacquoil and Cook.

The advocate said that there was "no suggestion" that the employee was "to blame" for the incident and that the construction company had fallen "just below the standard" required.

"Employees not trained in excavating should take a course, training is recommended to take place every two to three years," said Advocate Hall.

The court heard that the employee had taken a course in excavation with a previous employer.

"This certificate was from 2018, it was coming up to four years at the time of the incident, for whatever reason, the site manager didn’t recognise that it needed to be refreshed," said Advocate Hall.

Deputy Bailiff Robert MacRae, who was sitting with Jurats Jane Ronge and Charles Blampied, said: "The seriousness of harm that was risked was high. This was a case where there was a risk of death or serious physical or mental impediment [to the employee].

"A metal bollard penetrated the gap of the open cab door that narrowly missed [the employee], the granite slabs fell which exposed the public to risks.

"The training supplied to [the employee] did not include lifting training, the defendant failed to provide [the employee] with relevant lifting training.

"[The employee] was not competent to carry the lifts in the excavator, the company was responsible for ensuring such competency."

The Deputy Bailiff also noted that risk of harm caused to the public was low.

Hacquoil and Cook was fined a total of £32,500 and ordered to pay an additional £5,000 to cover prosecution costs.

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