Pinxton firm Van Elle Ltd fined £12,750 for safety breach

A PINXTON engineering contractor has been fined £12,750 after a worker suffered severe injuries when his excavator struck a bridge on the M1 motorway.

Maintenance fitter Simon Foulke, employed by Van Elle Ltd, of Kirkby Lane, was driving a wheeled excavator during widening work on the motorway between Junctions 25 and 28 when its boom hit a bridge.

The worker, who is in his early 40s, was not wearing his seatbelt and was thrown over the steering column and through the open front screen, hitting his head on the front excavator blade.

He suffered severe head injuries and was in a coma for two weeks.

Andy Siddall, prosecuting, told Mansfield magistrates that Mr Foulke’s recovery took five months and he has since returned to the company but has been left with reduced function in his left arm and leg and is still receiving ongoing physiotherapy.

He said: “There was a deficit in his (Mr Foulke’s) training. He was not competent and his ticket was not valid for the work he had been asked to do.”

Mr Siddall said the worker had been assessed to carry out lifting operations at the company’s premises, but on the day in question was standing in for a regular driver on the motorway construction site.

The court was told on Wednesday he was driving through the site with the excavator boom at an unsafe height. The manufacturer’s guidance states the boom must not be more than four metres high while travelling, but in this case the machine was being driven with the boom elevated to more than six metres.

Harry Vann, defending, said Mr Foulke had three years’ experience working on excavators during lifting operations. He said: “There are overhead hazards during the lifting operations and he had consistently shown awareness during these lifting operations.”

Mr Vann added: “This offence is confined to the fact that he was not trained for travelling to the sight of the lifting operations.”

After today’s hearing HSE inspector Kevin Wilson said: “This worker was extremely lucky to escape with his life. As it is he has been left with life-changing injuries.

“These injuries were wholly preventable had the company ensured the driver had adequate training in safe travel positions for manoeuvring the excavator on the construction project.

“They failed to take into account his lack of training for the particular task. There was a risk of striking overhead restrictions from when the journey started with the boom in the elevated position.

“His injuries could have been mitigated against if the operator had been wearing his seatbelt.”

Van Elle Ltd, of Kirkby Lane, Pinxton, pleaded guilty to breaching the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998. The firm was fined £12,750 and ordered to pay costs of £29,660.