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Courts hand out £1m in safety fines

Firms were hit by fines totalling nearly £1 million this week as the industry’s health and safety record again came under fire.

The largest was the £466,000 meted out to JCB following the deaths of two employees in less than a year. JCB’s excavators division was fined £266,000 after worker Paul McNamara suffered fatal head injuries when he was crushed by the boom of backhoe loader at its Uttoxeter base in Staffordshire.

The 43-year-old died in September 2006, just 10 months after a second employee, Darren Ellis, lost his life while testing the fuel tank of an earthmoving machine for leaks. The 33-year-old was working for JCB Earthmovers at the time.

Stafford Crown Court heard Mr Ellis was next to the tank when the inspection plate blew off, causing him fatal head injuries after he connected a high-pressure airline instead of using low pressure. JCB was fined £200,000.

In both cases, JCB pleaded guilty to breaching health and safety rules and was ordered to pay a further £63,000 in costs.

And Alfred McAlpine was hit with a £250,000 fine after a motorcyclist ploughed into concrete crash barriers at roadworks in Kent in August 2005.

The firm, now owned by Carillion, was ordered to pay the fine after admitting to breaking health and safety rules.

The motorcyclist died after hitting the barriers that had been placed across the former A228 old Ratcliffe Highway, on the Isle of Grain.

Maidstone Crown Court heard there were no warning signs or traffic cones along the route. HSE inspector John Underwood said: “The ‘Road Closed’ signs and the traffic cones had been missing for more than eight weeks before the incident.”

FJ Chalcroft, which has its main offices in Worcestershire and Norfolk, has been ordered to pay the £260,000 it was fined at Nottingham Crown Court last October following the death of an employee in November 2003.

The firm was appealing the size of the fine, which came with £80,000 costs, at the Court of Appeal last week.

Daniel Askew, 22, died when he fell 10 m after leaning on an unsecured handrail at a site in Bilsthorpe, Nottinghamshire.