Laing O’Rourke fined $1 million after worker kills brother

British contractor Laing O’Rourke has been fined just over $1m (£800,000) for its role in a 2014 tragedy in which an unqualified driver of a dumper truck accidentally reversed into his brother, crushing him to death.

The same type of vehicles involved in the incident (HSE)

The incident at Heathrow Airport was "entirely avoidable", said the UK’s Health and Safety Executive (HSE), which found that neither worker was authorised with the appropriate certificate to use the dumper truck, and that the operation was not properly overseen or managed.

The accident happened in October 2014 when when brothers Paul and Philip Griffiths were trying to move a broken down scissor lift on a service road at the airport, while working for Laing O’Rourke.

Paul tried to tow the scissor lift away using the dumper truck, under the direction of managers. But during the attempt his foot got stuck between the brake and the accelerator and the truck reversed, crushing his 38-year-old brother Philip, who was standing between the two vehicles. Philip was pronounced dead at the scene.

"Laing O’Rourke did nothing to address the trend of these workers carrying out tasks they weren’t trained or authorised for," said HSE Inspector Jack Wilby after the sentencing at Southwark Crown Court in London. "These dedicated staff, including Philip and his brother, needed appropriate supervision."

Wilby called the incident "a tragedy for all concerned and, as revealed by our investigation, entirely avoidable".

Following the incident Laing O’Rourke Construction Limited of Crossways in Dartford pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 22(1)(a) of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007, was fined £800,000 and ordered to pay costs of £10,000.

The fine represents tougher new sentencing guidelines for health and safety offences that came into force in the UK on 1 February 2016. These give judges a framework of penalties for different sizes of organisation, level of harm risked and culpability.

Laing O’Rourke’s fine is not a record. In December last year another UK contractor Kier MG Ltd. was fined £1.5m ($1.9m) for its part in an accident in which a worker had his leg broken in six places when a trench collapsed.

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