Construction News

Mon June 01 2020

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Contractor fined £750k for van crash deaths

14 May A £6m-turnover construction company must pay out £750,000 in fines and costs for failing to ensure that its workers were sufficiently rested to work and travel safely.

Renown Consultants Limited has been fined £450,000 plus £300,000 in costs after being convicted under the Health & Safety at Work Act.

The sentence was passed virtually by His Honour Judge Godsmark sitting at Nottingham Crown Court on 13th May 2020 after Renown was found guilty on 19th March 2020. The prosecution was brought by the Office of Rail & Road (ORR).

The sentencing brings to an end a complex case in which Zac Payne, 20, and Michael Morris, 48, died on 19th June 2013 while traveling in a company van back to Doncaster after a night shift as railway welders in Stevenage. In the early hours of the morning on the A1 near Claypole they crashed into a parked articulated lorry.

ORR’s investigation found failures to manage fatigue among the workforce. The judge found that Mr Payne was driving the van at the time of the incident, despite the company’s insurance policy stipulating that drivers had to be aged over 25. The company accepted during the trial that under 25s frequently drove company vehicles.

The judge said that Renown’s gravest failing was to perform a suitable and sufficient risk assessment on the day before the fatalities, which led to the company failing to comply with its own fatigue management procedures – nor did it comply with the working time limits for safety critical work, such as welding and trackside work, which insist there should be a ‘minimum rest period of 12 hours between booking off from a turn of duty to booking on for the next.

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The judge said in his closing remarks: “Operations and managers knew what they were supposed to do in relation to fatigue but lip service was paid to these systems. Senior operations cut corners and I found blindness at Doncaster in relation to people driving to and from jobs.

“This failure to take seriously was reflected in [Renown’s] attitude and wilful failure of its no under 25 policy. In regard to those breaches to fatigue falling far short… I consider this a serious and systemic failure by Renown.”

Ian Prosser, HM chief inspector of railways said: "Our thoughts remain with the family and friends of Mr Payne and Mr Morris, and I hope this result brings them peace. We welcome the sentence which is the first time that ORR has prosecuted in relation to failures of fatigue management. It shows the seriousness with which the court has taken this tragic case, and shows the fatal consequences that can occur when fatigue policies are disregarded.

“We hope this has acted as a reminder to companies that safety comes first and fatigue policies should be enforced to ensure their workforce is not too tired to work.”

Renown Consultants Ltd was found guilty of failing to discharge its duty under Sections 2 and 3 of the Health & Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and regulation 3 of the Management of Health & Safety at Work Regulations 1999 and was therefore guilty of an offence contrary to Section 33 of the Act.

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