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Digger Driver Sentenced Following Death Of Young Engineer

Family Hope Lessons Are Leant To Prevent Similar Tragedies


By Helen MacGregor

The parents of a 22-year-old engineer who died of serious head injuries when he was struck by a digger bucket say no punishment could make up for their huge loss after the driver of the digger was given a suspended custodial sentence.

Mark Handford, from Shirley near Solihull, died instantly in August 2009 after he was struck by a bucket connected to an excavator whilst working on a building site in Redditch.

His parents, Paul and Julie Handford, instructed serious injury specialists at law firm Irwin Mitchell’s Birmingham office in their battle for justice to find out exactly what happened to their son. Lawyers at the firm say this case highlights the ‘devastating consequences’ of health and safety failures on construction sites.

Investigations by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) raised concerns about the digger driver’s conduct when operating the digger and Jonathan Gold was charged with an offence under section 3 of the Health and Safety at Work Act for failing to ensure that Mark was not exposed to a risk to his health and safety.

Today 11 April, he was given a seven month custodial sentence suspended for two years and ordered to carry out 200 hours of unpaid work at a hearing at Birmingham Crown Court following a guilty plea last month.

In September 2010 an inquest heard there were issues with the inspection and maintenance of equipment provided by Kingsbury Transport and Plant Limited, for the digger driver’s use, which contributed to the bucket becoming detached from its fixing point on the arm of excavator causing Mark’s death.

A jury returned a verdict of accidental death and Kingsbury Transport and Plant Limited settled the civil case led by Irwin Mitchell in May 2011.

Rebecca Hearsey, a serious workplace injury expert at Irwin Mitchell representing the family, said: “Mark’s family are relieved that the HSE, the Police and the Crown Prosecution Service felt able to prosecute Mr Gold as they have been very angry that Mark’s death was ultimately completely avoidable. 

“What this case highlights is the importance of all individuals being aware of how their actions can affect those in the workplace and that poor working practices on construction sites, which are potentially dangerous places, can have devastating consequences.

 “Whilst we hope the hearing draws a line under the last three and a half years, we appreciate no sentence could reflect the pain the Handford family have suffered. We now hope lessons are learnt by companies, employees, employers and, indeed, self employed individuals to prevent any further needless tragedies.”

Dad Paul said: “Mark was a great sportsman and had an insatiable love for life. We still miss him every day and continue to find it hard to accept the fact that he has been taken from us.

“Since we lost Mark, our main focus has been on finding out who or what was responsible for his death and also ensuring steps were taken by those responsible to prevent any similar tragedies from happening in the future.

“Nothing will bring Mark back or make up for our huge loss but we hope the sentence today raises awareness of the importance of all employees considering their actions in the workplace to protect their colleagues. That way, Mark’s death will not be completely in vain.”

The family will be attending a Workers Memorial Day event at Birmingham St Philip’s Cathedral with Irwin Mitchell lawyer Rebecca Hearsey on April 28 to pay tribute to the hundreds of other workers who lose their lives every year through accidents sustained in the work place.

Ms Hearsey added: “Workers Memorial Day is a stark reminder of just how many people lose their lives simply by going to work and doing their job. Each and every workplace death has a devastating impact on family and friends and we believe that the Government should be doing everything in its power to ensure that employees can feel as safe as possible.”


Read more about Irwin Mitchell's expertise relating to accidents at work