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Worker Death

Posted: Tuesday 9th, December 2014

Utility company sentenced for worker death

Date: 8 December 2014

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, 59, of Rayleigh, sustained multiple crush injuries in the fatal
incident at the utility company’s Coppermill Lane site on 30 April 2010, and died at
the scene.

He was undertaking 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 today (8 December) after an investigation by the
Health and 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 on foot.

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 also 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 involved was not equipped with
effective rear view mirrors or any form of reversing aid or alarm.

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.”

Laura Wyer, Raymond’s daughter, speaking on behalf of the family, commented:

“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.

“My father was a very jolly, easy going man who had a huge amount of time for
both myself and my mum, and also my husband Robert, who he saw as the son he
never had. He was only a few years from retiring and both he and my Mum were
already looking forward to the time they would have together.

“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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