An excavator reversing at a site clearance in Mallow landed on the left leg of a workman causing the loss of his limb from the knee and today his employer was fined €80,000.
A guilty plea was entered on behalf of Tom Lynes Plant Hire Ltd of Cecilstown, Mallow, County Cork, on charges that the company failed to ensure safety of employees by failing to have an exclusion zone in place to separate pedestrians from operational vehicles as a consequence of which Nicholas Geaney suffered injury.
A guilty plea was also entered by the company to the related charge of there being no valid safety awareness registration card for the employee while operating a mulching machine.
The company was ordered to pay prosecution costs of €10,200 as well as the fine of €80,000 at Cork Circuit Criminal Court.
The injured party who is a middle-aged man said in his victim impact statement, “My life is destroyed forever more. I cannot work anymore. I used to do odd jobs for farmers and cannot do this now. My cycling career is over. I cannot go on long cycles. I used to do the Ring of Kerry and Ring of Beara every year.”
Tom Creed defence senior counsel said the employer who knew the injured party and was giving him a few days’ work on the occasion, apologised to him and was extremely sorry for what happened.
Mr Creed said Tom Lynes Plant Hire Ltd. was fully insured to meet the civil case arising out of the accident.
Health and Safety Authority Inspector Frances Murphy said four people were working on the site clearance where trees and bushes were being cut and removed and overhead powerlines were being run underground.
Mr Geaney, who had a hearing impairment, was feeding branches into a mulching machine when an excavator being used for another part of the work reversed into him when it was either behind him or to his side.
“He was struck when it reversed and his left leg was trapped under the excavator tracks… He was wearing no hi-vis jacket at the time. He lost his leg from the knee down,” Ms Murphy said.
The inspector accepted the submission from Mr Creed that Tom Lynes Plant Hire Ltd. had an otherwise exemplary safety record.
Judge Seán Ó Donnabháin said, “They were involved in clearing trees and shrubs – removal and mulching – it was a straightforward operation but one that needs a fair amount of supervision. It is so fundamental and basic and it was not here.
“The excavator and mulcher were in close proximity without any regard for movements and dangers. It was eminently avoidable by basis oversight, instruction and supervision but that was completely missing.
“The employer must have been aware of (Mr Geaney’s) hearing difficulty but no effort was made to deal with that on the plan, and there was a complete lack of supervision.”
The judge noted the HSA accepted the company was otherwise well run in safety terms. But he said on this occasion the accident had a catastrophic effect on the life of the injured man.