MARK DANIELS - Adviser on visitor and occupational health and safety at historic buildings, parks, gardens, coast and countryside

News archive December 2014

16th December 2014

Contractors and the National Coal Mining Museum Trust fined following fatal accident to a contractor in 2011

Two contracting companies and Yorkshire’s National Coal Mining Museum for England Trust have been ordered to pay a total of £590,000 in fines and costs after a worker was fatally crushed at the museum in 2011 during an improvement project. A contractor died after he was crushed between a tunnel construction machine and a dumper loader that he was operating. The fatal incident, on 25 January 2011, happened 138 metres below ground at the museum’s site at Caphouse Colliery in Wakefield.

The Court heard that the experienced miner and electrician was part of a team engaged in constructing 140 metres of new tunnels to revitalise the visitors’ tour and increase the number of exhibition galleries. At the time, the museum trust had hired specialist contractor Amalgamated Construction Ltd (AMCO), of Barnsley, to build the tunnels. AMCO, which employed the deceased, was using the two machines, both supplied by Metal Innovations Ltd (MIL), of Cowbridge in Wales.

The incident was investigated by HSE’s specialist mining division, which served a prohibition notice on equipment supplier Metal Innovations after inspectors found the dumper was unsafe. HSE identified that the dumper did not have a readily-accessible emergency stop function, did not meet essential safety requirements relating to the design and supply of new machinery and posed a clearly foreseeable risk that it would entrap the operator. It had supplied a machine that was patently dangerous in several ways.

The contractor, AMCO, had failed to carry out a suitable risk assessment of the machine or the work activities, including the interactions of the workers and equipment, and had used an unsafe machine exposing staff to substantial risk.

The Museum Trust’s breach centred on its failing to ensure that the mine was run in accordance with all relevant safety regulations. Unlike those of the other two defendants, the breach had not played a causative role in the loss of Mr Buckingham’s life.

Amalgamated Construction Ltd. was fined a total of £110,000 with £245,000 to pay in costs after pleading guilty to a breach of the Health & Safety at Work etc. Act plus a breach of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations. Metal Innovations Ltd. was fined £80,000 with £110,000 in costs after admitting a breach of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act in connection with the supply of machinery. Both companies were guilty of breaches that were clearly connected to the loss of Mr Buckingham’s life.

The Museum Trust was fined £10,000 with £35,000 in costs after admitting breaching the Management and Administration of Safety and Health at Mines Regulations 1993. The three defendants had earlier entered guilty pleas to the offences.

The HSE mines inspector said: “There were several factors that came into play that led to this very tragic death. It was an incident that could have been prevented but all three parties had a role to play in how it went badly wrong. However, the Trust’s failure did not play a direct role in the loss of life, unlike the combination of failures of the other two defendants. It was clearly foreseeable that entrapment and crushing could result from the use of this mobile machinery, given how the work was being carried out. This meant the deceased had to walk backwards on occasions and operate close to other equipment within the confines of an underground roadway. Low-cost, readily available solutions could have addressed these hazards.

“The MIL-supplied forward tipping dumper did not conform to design standards or safety requirements, and the dumper’s canopy both reduced the potential for escape from the incident as well as causing severe injuries. Other equipment supplied or used by AMCO and Metal Innovations had integral emergency stop facilities within easy reach. It was also clear from the investigation that the deceased had not received suitable and sufficient training in the use of the dumper. Machines and equipment must be supplied free from defects and accord with safety provisions. They must be assessed in the work environment and a system of work devised for their safe use.”

At the time of the incident, no members of the public were exposed to any risks. All mining activity was taking place overnight.

Details of the case can be found here -