Erith company fined £175,000 after worker crushed by excavator attachment

Erith Plant Services has been fined £175,000 after a worker was killed by a falling demolition grab at the firm’s workshop.

Liam McArdle, 24, was at the facility in Swanscombe, Kent, when the excavator attachment fell onto him while it was being loaded onto a lorry.

According to a statement from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), its investigators found that the Erith Group subsidiary did not ensure there was a safe method of work in place and failed to ensure HGV drivers fully engaged their quick hitch when moving attachments while loading and unloading.

There was also no defined segregation between vehicles and pedestrians at the workshop, nor was there suitable supervision of work activities at the time of the incident, in September 2021, the watchdog said.

Liam McArdle

According to a victim impact statement from Liam’s father Declan McArdle, supplied by the HSE, the young worker had wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps in the industry.

“Liam and I enjoyed spending time together,” he added. “We would go on truck rallies and to car racing events together. Liam would never really say: ‘I love you, dad.’ It just wasn’t his way.

“Rather, he would ask me to go to a racing event with him and I knew that this was Liam’s way of saying he loved me. Liam and I were planning on going to a racing event in February 2022. I went to the event, and I took Liam’s ashes with me so that we could still go together.”

Erith Plant Services Ltd, of Erith, Kent, pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974.

It was fined £175,000 and ordered to pay £37,804 in costs at Woolwich Crown Court.

HSE inspector Joanne Williams said: “This tragic death serves as an important reminder that workers need to be trained and that there is always the potential for an attachment to fall during the operation of excavators.

“Employers need to ensure that work practices are maintained to keep workers away from the danger areas during lifting activities.”

Erith Plant Services turned over £10.8m in its latest set of accounts, for the year ending 30 September 2023.

It made a pre-tax loss of £473,386. The wider Erith Group posted revenue of £227m and made a £5.1m pre-tax profit in the same period.

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