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Sun July 03 2022

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Digger driver and boss get suspended jail sentences

2 Mar The boss of a Leeds aggregates firm and his digger driver have been handed suspended jail sentences for safety breaches.

J Murphy Aggregates Ltd, the company concerned has been fined a total of £120,000 for two separate incidents.

Leeds Crown Court passed sentence this week for safety breaches after a worker was struck by a falling excavator. Injuries sustained ultimately led to the victim having to have a hip removed, leaving him with one leg shorter than the other.

In addition, J Murphy Aggregates Ltd was sentenced over separate incident after a wagon driver sustained severe crush injuries to his right leg when he was dragged under a 360 excavator. The leg had to be amputated below the knee.

York Crown Court had previously heard that J Murphy Aggregates Ltd was engaged in waste management/collection of non-hazardous waste, typically tarmac, brick rubble and broken concrete, which is further broken down and then sold on as hardcore to building sites. The sole director is Shaun Murphy. Prior to the incident, the company was using agency staff on occasion to cover some tasks.

An investigation by the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) found that James Duggan had been initially employed as a crusher 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 holding no qualifications for operating one. Mr Duggan was using the excavator to munch a stockpile when the ground below the excavator collapsed. The excavator then tumbled down the stockpile and collided with a worker who was catapulted off the crushing machine he was maintaining at the time.

The 58-year-old worker suffered multiple fractures to both legs, a dislocated kneecap, a right sided fracture to the pelvis and hip, two punctured lungs, and a right sided fracture to the skull. He also required 10 stitches to the head. He remained in hospital for a year, during which time his right hip was removed. His right leg is now significantly shorter than his left leg.

J Murphy Aggregates Ltd of Viaduct Street, Pudsey, West Yorkshire pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2 (1) and Section 3 (1) of the Health & Safety at Work etc Act 1974. The company was fined £70,000 for this offence.

Shaun Murphy, director, of the same address, 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. He 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 requirement days and pay £2,242.50 costs.

Excavator operator James Duggan of Snawthorne Grove, Castleford, pleaded guilty to breaching Section 7 (a) and Section 3 (2) of the Health & Safety at Work etc Act 1974. He received and eight-month custodial sentence, suspended for two years, and was ordered to pay £2,242.50 costs.

The company was also sentenced in relation to a later incident in which a wagon driver had his right leg crushed when it was dragged under a 360 excavator.

Leeds Magistrates’ Court had previously heard that, on 4th December 2020, the wagon driver’s tipper vehicle was being loaded with rubbish by an excavator. He driver was standing watching the work being done. He then approached the side of the wagon to retrieve some overhanging rubbish, before walking between the excavator and wagon and standing towards the rear of the vehicle near to the right-hand track of the excavator. The excavator tracked forwards, dragging his right leg under it, and crushing it.

His leg was broken and degloved below the knee. He underwent several operations to repair the open fractures and have muscle and skin grafts. Following complications, his right leg was amputated below the knee. His left leg has also been left badly damaged from the skin and muscle grafts taken from it.

The HSE found that there was no effective segregation between vehicles and pedestrians in the yard. CCTV footage of the two weeks prior to the accident showed several near misses. In the period immediately prior to the accident, other pedestrians are seen on foot within the danger zone of the excavator as it is loading wagons with rubbish.

For this offence, J Murphy Aggregates was fined £50,000 and ordered to pay a total of £8,750 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. 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 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.”

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