Contractors Fined After Road Worker Killed In Bulldozer Incident

M25 Worker Fatality Leads To Prosecutions

14.07.2014

The death of a worker during a road-widening project on the M25 motorway has led to the prosecution of two firms for major safety failings.

Mihai Hondru, who was aged 39, died at the scene after suffering multiple crush injuries when he was hit by a reversing bulldozer while undertaking work near Junction 29 at Upminster in October 2010.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigated the incident and the actions of both the construction firm McArdle Contracts and bulldozer operator Stephen Blackmore.

It found that McArdle had originally devised a one-way system for the movement of vehicles after an initial safety assessment, which was vital for the protection of people like Mr Hondru, whose job was to direct lorries to the correct position to tip their loads of soil.

However, at the time of the incident changed ground conditions meant the lorries had to reverse into position and no measures were introduced to deal with the dangers of this altered method of working.

The HSE also found Mr Blackmore, who was operating the lorry, had assumed Mr Hondru would have moved out of the way by the time he started reversing his vehicle.

Slough-based J McArdle Contracts - which is now in liquidation - was found guilty at Chelmsford Crown Court of breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. The company was fined £2,000, a figure the judge stated would have been 100 times as much if the company was still trading.

Mr Blackmore was found guilty of breaching Regulation 37(3)(a) of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007. He was given a six-month prison sentence, suspended for a year, as well as being made to pay costs of £2,500.

Commenting after the case, HSE inspector Sandy Carmichael said: "What had seemed like a small change in the task was really very significant. Construction work needs good planning - and good planning includes thorough risk assessment.

“Any modification to the plan means the risks need to be re-considered very carefully. Re-assessing risk when circumstances change is crucial, as this tragic incident clearly shows."

According to HSE figures, on average seven workers are killed by reversing vehicles every year, with 93 being seriously injured.

Expert Opinion
Through our work representing injured victims and the families of those killed in accidents at work, we have seen cases when people have suffered long-term physical and psychological injuries as a result of workplace incidents involving vehicles.

"Transport management is vital in all workplaces, but this case sadly highlights the problems which can emerge if employers fail to ensure the right steps are taken to ensure health and safety is the top priority.

"Risk assessments are vital from the outset of any work, but should also be used when circumstances change to guarantee that a new approach to a job will not have an adverse impact on employees. Too many people are fatally injured in incidents similar to this every year and it is vital that lessons are learned for the future."
Stephen Nye, Partner