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Thames Water fined £300k after worker killed by reversing excavator

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A worker died because the utilities giant Thames Water failed to provide “basic safety standards” to prevent moving machinery coming into contact with pedestrians at a water treatment works, a court has heard.


Raymond Holmes, 59, (above) was part of a team cleaning a large sand filter bed at the plant in Walthamshow, north east London, in April 2010. The work involved using several items of large mobile plant machinery, and Mr Holmes, who had worked for Thames Water Utilities for more than 30 years, was on foot using laser levelling equipment to measure the depth of the sand bed.  

However, Southwark Crown Court heard that as he was doing so, he was struck by a reversing excavator after the driver failed to realise he was there. He suffered multiple injuries and died at the scene.

The HSE investigation found that although Thames Water had recognised the need for control measures to mitigate the risk of a collision between moving plant and workers, it failed to implement sufficient measures on the day of the incident. Those working in the beds, including Mr Holmes, had not received any formal instruction or supervision on the safe systems of work to follow, and no one was required to wear hi-visibility clothing. The excavator had also not been fitted with effective rear view mirrors or any form of reversing aid or alarm.

The sand filter bed. Click to expand.

Speaking after the sentencing hearing, HSE inspector Nick Patience said: “Raymond Holmes sadly lost his life because basic safety standards were not in place to protect him and other workers.

 “Working alongside mobile plant can be extremely dangerous, and it is vital that effective control measures are in place at all times to ensure collisions are avoided.

“Although Thames Water had identified the potential risks, the company failed to ensure the necessary precautions and safe systems of work were in place, understood by all and monitored on that fateful day.”

Laura Wyer, Raymond’s daughter, speaking on behalf of the family, said: “When we heard the news that my father had been killed it was not only completely devastating, but incomprehensible that he was killed at work. We had never thought his job was in any way dangerous and couldn’t understand how it was allowed to happen. If only a few simple procedures had been implemented then he would still be here today.

“If just a little more thought and time is taken by employers then workers would not need to lose their lives for simply doing their job. Working in a safe and healthy environment should be a right – it must never be referred to as a burden on an employer to ensure this.”

Thames Water Utilities Limited, of Reading, was fined £300,000 and ordered to pay a £61,229 in prosecution costs after pleading guilty to a single breach of section 2(1) of the HSWA 1974.

 

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