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Highways Agency rebuked by HSE after worker death

The Highways Agency has been admonished by the Health and Safety Executive after a traffic officer was killed on the M25.

The HSE issued the Agency with a crown censure for safety failings following the death of John Walmsley, who was hit by a car on the London orbital motorway in 2012.

A crown censure means the HSE believes it would have had a realistic prospect of a conviction in court if the Agency did not have immunity.

Walmsley, 59, from Gravesend in Kent, was deployed with a colleague to an incident between junctions 4 and 5 of the M25 on 25 September 2012.

The pair towed a stricken car to the hard shoulder and, along with the car’s driver, who was unhurt, awaited a recovery vehicle.

Walmsley then walked down the hard shoulder to look for the truck, and was using his phone, when a second car went out of control on the same bend as the first, skidded across the carriageway and hit him. He died at the scene.

An HSE investigation found that despite the Agency’s introduction in July 2011 of formal quarterly supervision checks of traffic officers by a team manager, Walmsley had not been involved in such a check in more than a year.

More than half the traffic officers based at the Dartford depot had not undergone any quarterly supervision checks.

HSE inspector Guy Widdowson said: “Mr Walmsley, who had worked as a traffic officer for seven years, was killed because he was not standing behind the safety barrier when a car crashed on the motorway.

“If the Agency had conducted the necessary supervisory checks between July 2011 and his death the following September, it may have ensured he followed the correct safety procedures and prevented him from working the way he did.”

A Highways Agency spokesman said: “John is always in our thoughts and deepest sympathies remain with his family, friends, and colleagues.

“While the HSE investigation was prompted by John’s death on duty in September 2012, the details of the case brought against the Agency relate specifically to a failure to provide the necessary supervision of traffic officers based at Dartford outstation in accordance with our own procedures and to ensure the health and safety of all our employees.

“Accepting and respecting this judgment, we have taken steps to ensure that our procedures are appropriate to the health and safety of our staff, and that we all follow those procedures. We remain absolutely committed to the health and safety of our people, learning from this experience.”

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