Prison sentence for driver and fine for liquidated contractor

A dozer operator has been handed a 6 month prison sentence after the vehicle he was operating ran over and caused the death of a co-worker during work the M25 widening project.

Mihai Hondru, aged 39, suffered multiple crush injuries and died at the scene when he was struck by a reversing dozer near Junction 29 at Upminster on 20 October 2010.

Chelmsford Crown heard that that Mr Hondru was employed by J McArdle Contracts Ltd, which was managing the rebuilding of the motorway embankment. His work involved directing lorries to the correct position on the embankment to deposit loads of soil whilst the dozer leveled the tipped soil.

Vehicle not driven in safe manner

Whilst assisting a lorry driver to manoeuvre his vehicle into position Mr Hondru was struck by the reversing dozer.

HSE inspectors found that after carrying out a risk assessment the company implemented a one-way system to minimise the risks to pedestrians from moving vehicles.

However, on the day of the incident, ground conditions had changed and the system of work in place involved the lorries reversing into position. However, inadequate safety measures were in place to protect those workers operating near the reversing bulldozer.

Dozer operator, Stephen Blackmore, failed to take sufficient account of Mihai Hondru’s presence in his immediate vicinity. Rather than making sure he knew exactly where Mr Hondru was, he assumed he was not in his way or that Mr Hondru would move out of his way when he reversed his bulldozer.

Driver prosecuted for breach of CDM duty

J McArdle Contracts Ltd – now in liquidation – of Slough, was handed a fine of £2,000 after being found guilty of breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. The judge commented on sentencing that if the company had still been trading the fine would have been £200,000.

Stephen Blackmore, 54, from Devon, was also 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 12 months, and ordered to pay costs of £2,500.

Speaking after the case HSE Inspector Sandy Carmichael said:

“Mihai Hondru’s death was a needless tragedy, all the more so because it was preventable. Safe operation of heavy plant, including bulldozers, means continuously checking that pedestrians are clear of moving vehicles.

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.

Mr Hondru’s death could have easily been avoided if the transport operations had been properly managed and there had been good vigilance by everyone involved.”

On average over recent years seven workers have died each year as a result of incidents involving vehicles or mobile plant on construction sites. A further 93 are seriously injured.

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