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Prosecutions after M25 widening death

A failed civil engineering firm and a bulldozer operator have been sentenced for serious safety failings after a worker was run over and killed while working on the M25 widening project.

Mihai Hondru, of Barkingside, Essex, suffered multiple crush injuries and died at the scene when he was struck by a reversing bulldozer near Junction 29 at Upminster on 20 October 2010.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) prosecuted Slough-based J McArdle Contracts – which went into administration last year – and bulldozer operator Stephen Blackmore at Chelmsford Crown Court after an investigation into the incident.

The Court was told that Mr Hondru was employed by J McArdle Contracts Ltd, which was managing the rebuilding of the motorway embankment.

Hondru’s job was directing lorries to the correct position on the embankment for them to tip their loads of soil. Stephen Blackmore’s job was then to level the tipped soil with his bulldozer.

As Hondru was helping a lorry driver manoeuvre his vehicle into position, he was struck by the reversing bulldozer, driven by Blackmore.

HSE inspectors found that after carrying out a risk assessment, J McArdle had implemented a one-way system to minimise the risks to pedestrians from the moving vehicles.

On the day of the incident, ground conditions had changed which meant the lorries had to reverse into position. However, inadequate safety measures were put in place to protect those workers operating near the reversing bulldozer.

In addition, Blackmore failed to take sufficient account of Mihai Hondru’s presence in his immediate vicinity. Rather than making sure he knew exactly where Hondru was, he assumed he was not in his way or that Hondru would move out of his way when he reversed his bulldozer.

J McArdle Contracts – now in liquidation – was fined £2,000 after being found guilty of breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. The judge commented on sentencing that if the company had still been trading the fine would have been £200,000.

Blackmore, of Rydon Farm, Devon, was also found guilty of breaching Regulation 37(3)(a) of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007. He was given a six month prison sentence, suspended for 12 months, and ordered to pay costs of £2,500.

Speaking after the case, HSE Inspector Sandy Carmichael said: “Mihai Hondru’s death was a needless tragedy, all the more so because it was preventable. Safe operation of heavy plant, including bulldozers, means continuously checking that pedestrians are clear of moving vehicles.

“What had seemed like a small change in the task was really very significant. Construction work needs good planning – and good planning includes thorough risk assessment.

“Any modification to the plan means the risks need to be re-considered very carefully. Re-assessing risk when circumstances change is crucial, as this tragic incident clearly shows.

“Hondru’s death could have easily been avoided if the transport operations had been properly managed and there had been good vigilance by everyone involved.”

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