Worker killed on dumper at first day at work

A 20-year-old worker died on his first day at work for a new company when the four-tonne dumper he was driving toppled over a 60 degree bank and crushed him.

The driver of the dumper, Daniel Whiston, from Dulverton, was allowed to drive the dumper, which had a number of serious defects, before it overturned down the embankment at Sweetings Farm, near Tiverton, on 27 October 2009.

The HSE prosecuted Daniel Whiston’s employers, company directors William Friend and Robert Plume for the accident.

The court heard that the company, Wedgewood Buildings Ltd, had been contracted to expand a pond on the farm, by loading the dumper with the spoil which was to be moved to another location on site.

Daniel Whiston received about 30 minutes’ training from a more experienced colleague, who was also operating an excavator and filling the dumper, before he started his first day’s work.

In he afternoon, the excavator operator, who was the only other worker on site saw the fully-loaded dumper driven by Whiston fall of the side of the road and down sixty degree slope.

HSE’s investigation found serious issues on the site which are as follows.

  •  The excavator driver was not trained to teach Whiston how to use the dumper and was not competent to supervise him.
  •  The dumper had a number of serious defects, including steering failure, defective and inoperative front braking and a non-functioning handbrake with worn-out parts.
  • No suitable or sufficient risk assessments had been carried out for the work and no safe system of work was used.
  • The causeway used by the dumper was too narrow for a front-tipping dumper to be positioned and safely tip the load down the embankment.

Both directors, Plume, of South Molton, and Friend, of Swimbridge, near Barnstaple, each pleaded guilty to a breach of Health and Safety legislation and law.

Both were given a 12 month custodial sentence, suspended for two years, and 180 hours of community service, to be completed within a year. They were also ordered to pay costs of £25,000 each.

HSE Inspector Jonathan Harris, speaking after the hearing, said: “The very serious failures to manage this job properly contributed to the tragic and needless loss of a young man’s life.

“Workers have a right to expect that the equipment they use is appropriate for the task, properly maintained and in a safe condition.

“Mr Whiston was not given suitable basic or advanced training under the industry’s Construction Plant Competence Scheme and was, instead, given a short briefing by a worker who himself had no formal qualifications for driving the dumper.

“Anyone in control of construction projects must ensure the work is properly planned and risk assessed to avoid similar tragedies in the future. Knowing what needs to be done is not the same as knowing how it should be done safely.”

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