Noel Mayne, 59, from Tichfield in Hampshire, died as he and colleagues tried to retrieve his dozer that had got bogged down in mud at the Stanford-le-Hope development on 23 April 2011.
An investigation by the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) found that Dredging International (UK) Ltd, which controlled operations at the site, failed to plan and execute a safe recovery of the stuck machine.
Basildon Crown Court heard last week (10 October 2013) that Mr Mayne was carrying out land reclamation work in the early hours of the morning when the bulldozer he was using became bogged down in water-logged silt that was being piped ashore by a dredger. He used his mobile phone to call for help from the driver of a nearby excavator.
Mr Mayne had left the cab of the bulldozer and was standing on a platform step while the excavator reversed towards him in order for him to hook a steel tow rope from the bulldozer onto a tooth of the excavator’s bucket.
The court was told that as the excavator driver turned the vehicle so that the arm and bucket was towards the rear of the bulldozer, Mr Mayne was seemingly struck by the bucket. He was found lying partially submerged in water behind the bulldozer.
He died at the scene as a result of extensive crush injuries to his chest and upper torso.
HSE found that Dredging International (UK) Ltd had failed to draw up safe working procedures for the recovery of bogged down vehicles so the drivers had to improvise.
Dredging International (UK) Ltd, of Baker Street, Weybridge, Surrey, was fined £120,000 and ordered to pay £26,473 in costs by 30 November 2013, after pleading guilty to breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety At Work etc Act 1974.
After the hearing, HSE inspector Paul Grover said: “Hydraulic land reclamation operations are high risk operations by their very nature. However, despite identifying the entirely foreseeable risk of heavy machinery becoming bogged, Dredging International failed to undertake a suitable and sufficient risk assessment.
“This meant that drivers at London Gateway Port, provided by a contractor, were left without safe working procedures, instruction, and adequate command and communication systems to effectively manage obvious and frequently occurring risks.
“This absence of safe recovery procedures resulted in drivers adopting their own methods of recovery out of necessity. The method used at the time of Mr Mayne’s death resulted in him leaving the cab of his bulldozer and taking up a position in close proximity to the excavator that was coming to his assistance.
“Effective segregation of pedestrians and workplace transport, particularly heavy machinery, is a fundamental health and safety requirement, especially in the construction sector. This tragic death could have been prevented if a safe system of recovery had been put in place and adhered to.”