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Thames Water fined £300k for excavator fatality

9 Dec 14 Thames Water has been ordered to pay more than £361,000 in fines and costs after a worker was killed by a reversing excavator at a treatment works in Walthamstow.

Raymond Holmes was killed by a reversing excavator
Raymond Holmes was killed by a reversing excavator

Raymond Holmes, 59, of Rayleigh, sustained multiple crush injuries at the company’s Coppermill Lane site on 30th April 2010 and died at the scene.

He was on foot doing profiling work as part of team cleaning a large sand filter bed, a process that involved the use of several items of large mobile plant machinery, including the excavator that struck him.

Thames Water was sentenced yesterday (8th December 2014) after an investigation by the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) identified serious failings with the way the machines and workers were allowed to operate.

Southwark Crown Court heard that Mr Holmes, an employee of Thames Water Utilities Limited (TWUL) for more than 30 years, was using laser levelling equipment to measure the depth of the sand bed.

He was struck by an excavator working close by after the driver reversed without seeing him or realising he was there.

HSE established that although TWUL recognised the need for control measures to mitigate the risk of a collision between plant and workers, the company failed to implement sufficient measures on the day. Those working in the beds, including Mr Holmes, had received no formal instruction or supervision to ensure they understood the safe systems of work.

HSE also found that nobody was required to wear hi-visibility clothing, and that the excavator had no effective rear view mirrors or any form of reversing aid or alarm.

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The court was told that had the work been better planned and managed, with effective control measures in place, Mr Holmes’ death could have been avoided.

Thames Water Utilities Limited, of Clearwater Court, Vastern Road, Reading, was fined £300,000 and ordered to pay a further £61,229 in costs after pleading guilty to a single breach of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.

After sentencing, HSE inspector Nick Patience commented: “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.”

Raymond Holmes’ daughter Laura Wyer issued a statement on behalf of the family: “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.”

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MPU

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