Construction contractor JB Leadbitter has been ordered to pay £220,000 in fines and costs after a jury ruled it failed to protect a delivery driver who suffered brain damage when he was run over by a nine tonne dump truck.
David Windsor had delivered a mortar silo to the Leadbitter site at Mount Wise, Devonport, Plymouth, on 7 October 2010. Leadbitter was principal contractor on the project to build 159 homes on the former Royal Navy site.
Windsor was struck by the dump truck as he made his way back to his vehicle after making some adjustments to the silo.
“He was right in the middle of the track,” explained HSE inspector Jonathan Harris. “He was already lying on the ground when he was hit. It might have been a medical event, but we don’t know for sure. But he shouldn’t have been on the track at all.”
Windsor was wearing a high visibility jacket but the truck driver, who was employed by a groundworks firm and was moving spoil, did not see him. A surveyor saw him and shouted, but the truck’s front wheels had run over Windsor before the driver could stop.
An HSE investigation found there was no segregated walkway for pedestrians on the site, despite regular dumper movements across the site. Leadbitter had a traffic management plan, said Harris, but it was drawn up for when the site was in a much more advanced phase, and at the time of the incident, there were no precautions to separate pedestrians and vehicles.
“In the location where Windsor was struck, a row of traffic cones with rope between them would have been reasonably practicable,” said Harris. “If it’s good enough for a motorway, it’s good enough for a construction site.”
During an eight day trial at Plymouth Crown Court, Leadbitter argued segregation should have been the responsibility of the groundworks firm but the jury unanimously decided that Leadbitter was at fault.
The HSE considered the role of the groundworks firm, said Harris. “When we look at site transport, we look at three things: safe driver, safe vehicle, and safe site. The driver was safe and the dumper was safe — it was almost brand new. So the failing was with the site and, as principal contractor, that was Leadbitter’s responsibility.”
The groundworks company coped as best it could with the conditions Leadbitter imposed, he said.
Another key factor was that Leadbitter had ordered the silo and knew Windsor was on site. A banksman had met him when he arrived, and walked with him to where the silo was being set up. But they parted ways when Windsor went back to his vehicle, said Harris.
Windsor sustained life changing injuries, including facial fractures, serious injuries to his right arm, fractured ribs, a broken pelvis and leg fractures. He spent two weeks in intensive care and a further four weeks in a high dependency unit. He also needed six months of rehabilitation in a brain injury unit. He has no memory of the incident.
JB Leadbitter, which employs 700 people in the UK and was bought by French industrial group Bouygues in 2011, was found guilty of breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act and was fined £100,000 plus costs of £120,000.
During sentencing, the judge, Recorder Davison, labelled Leadbitter’s defence “flimsy and unattractive”.