Fines and suspended custodial sentences after two workers sustain severe injuries in separate incidents
J MURPHY Aggregates Ltd, sole director, Shaun Murphy, and agency worker James Duggan have been sentenced at Leeds Crown Court for safety breaches after a worker was struck by a falling excavator. The company was also sentenced for safety breaches in a separate incident after a wagon driver sustained severe crush injuries to his right leg when he was dragged under an excavator.
In the first case, the court heard how Mr Duggan had been using an excavator to ‘munch’ a stockpile when the ground below the machine collapsed. The excavator tumbled down the stockpile causing a worker to be catapulted off a crushing machine he was maintaining at the time.
The 58-year-old worker suffered multiple fractures to both legs, a dislocated kneecap, a fractured pelvis and hip, punctured lungs, and a fractured skull. He remained in hospital for a year, during which time his right hip had to be removed, leaving his right leg significantly shorter than his left leg.
An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that James Duggan had been initially employed as a crushing machine operator via an employment agency and held a Construction Plant Competence Scheme (CPCS) card to do so. However, he was then employed directly by Shaun Murphy to operate a tracked excavator, despite not holding any formal qualifications to do so.
Leeds-based J Murphy Aggregates pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2(1) and Section 3(1) of the Health & Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and were fined £70,000.
Sole director Shaun Murphy pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2(1) and Section 3(1) by virtue of section 37(1) of the Health & Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and was sentenced to an eight-month custodial sentence, suspended for two years, and 160 hours of community service. He is also required to attend 20 rehabilitation activity days and pay £2,242.50 in costs.
Excavator operator James Duggan pleaded guilty to breaching Section 7(a) and Section 3(2) of the Health & Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and received an eight-month custodial sentence, suspended for two years, and was ordered to pay £2,242.50 in costs.
J Murphy Aggregates were also sentenced in relation to a later incident in which a wagon driver sustained severe crush injuries to his right leg when it was dragged under an excavator.
Leeds Magistrates’ Court had previously heard that, on 4 December 2020, the wagon driver was watching his tipper vehicle being loaded by an excavator when he approached the side of the wagon to retrieve some overhanging rubbish. He then stood towards the rear of the vehicle, near the right-hand track of the excavator. As the excavator tracked forwards, it dragged his right leg under it.
The wagon driver’s leg was broken and degloved below the knee. He underwent several operations to repair the open fractures and had to have a number of muscle and skin grafts. One of the muscle grafts subsequently failed and, following other complications, his right leg had to be amputated below the knee. His left leg has also been left badly scarred and damaged from the skin and muscle grafts taken from it.
An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that there was no effective segregation between heavy vehicles and pedestrians in the yard. CCTV footage of the two weeks prior to the accident showed several occasions where plant machinery nearly struck pedestrians. In the period immediately prior to the accident, other pedestrians were seen on foot within the danger zone of the excavator as it was loading wagons.
In this case, J Murphy Aggregates pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health & Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and were fined £50,000 and ordered to pay £8,750 in costs.
After the hearing, HSE inspector David Beaton said: ‘These cases are a damning indictment of a company which has consistently permitted unsafe systems of work.
‘Shaun Murphy failed to ensure that James Duggan had the relevant skills, knowledge, experience, and training to use the excavator at the site, and James Duggan knew he was only qualified to operate a crusher, as permitted by his CPCS card. The result was this tragic incident which could so easily have been avoided by using the correct control measures and safe working practices.
‘That another worker should sustain injury as a result of J Murphy’s failure to implement safe systems of work is deplorable. Segregation measures should have been in place to prevent pedestrians from being within the danger zone.
‘I hope this case sends strong signals to businesses that the HSE will not hesitate to take action where employers fail to meet health and safety standards and put their workers and the public at risk.’