Demolition firm fined after engineer killed by excavator

A demolition contractor has been fined £130,000 after a site engineer was crushed to death.

James Rourke died after being run over by an excavator at the housing job in Brampton, Cambridgeshire, according to a statement by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

The 22-year-old had been attaching ‘warning’ signs to fencing around the site when he was hit by the vehicle.

Materials Movement Ltd (MML) was carrying out ground clearance works at a development on Sarazen Gardens, where Cala Homes was main contractor.

According to the HSE, MML failed to plan and manage the work and failed to properly supervise the work that Rourke and the excavator driver were undertaking to ensure it was safe.

The regulator added that MML also failed to ensure the work was planned and managed to eliminate any chance of Rourke working near the excavator.

HSE guidance mandates that employers consider five precautions to control excavator hazards: exclusion, clearance, visibility, plant and vehicle marshaller, and bucket attachment.

Rourke, from Westcliff in Essex, died in November 2019. He only started working for MML a few months before the incident, having graduated from the University of Birmingham in the summer.

Materials Movement Ltd, of Baldock, Hertfordshire, pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 15(2) of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015.

It was fined £133,330 and ordered to pay £8,500 in costs at Peterborough Magistrates’ Court on 22 March 2024.

After the sentencing, HSE inspector Martin Paren said: “This tragic incident led to the avoidable death of a young man. This death could have easily been prevented if his employer had properly planned, instructed and supervised the work.”

In a victim personal statement, released by the safety watchdog, Rourke’s mother Clare said: “The sunshine has been taken from our lives and the dark gap is immense.

“Our profound loss is ever present; James is always missing. Missing from family events, Christmas, birthdays, holidays. Unknown to newborn family members. Unknown to new friends.”

She added: “James was perfect. He was a big part of our close family unit. He would do anything for us. We cherished him, dearly. He was a compassionate, valued friend to many and was known for his humour and gentle nature.”

Rourke’s parents told BBC News that they felt like they were left in a “black hole” by a lack of information provided to them by the HSE during the more than four years they waited for the case to go to court.

Last year Construction News investigated how the length of time taken to investigate many site incidents leaves bereaved families in limbo and the industry waiting to find out what safety lessons should be learnt.

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