Balfour Beatty fined £600,000 after construction worker crushed to death

New crossing over the Don. Picture: contributed
New crossing over the Don. Picture: contributed
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A construction firm has been fined £600,000 for negligence after a worker was crushed to death by an excavator.

Father-of-three Ian Walker, 58, died during work on the £22 million Third Don Crossing in Aberdeen in January 2016.

A lack of lighting would have made it “difficult, if not impossible” for the operator of the 14-tonne excavator to have seen him, a court heard.

Balfour Beatty Civil Engineering admitted its workers had not been correctly following health and safety policies.

The giant piece of machinery was rotating after filling up beside a mobile fuel tank when it knocked Mr Walker to the ground.

He was caught between the between the tank and excavator on the Bridge of Don site.

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Representatives of Balfour Beatty Civil Engineering appeared yesterday (25 Feb) at Aberdeen Sheriff Court following a lengthy and detailed investigation into the incident.

The firm admitted that its workers had not been correctly following health and safety policies at the time of Mr Walker’s death.

Depute Fiscal Shona Nicholson said the investigation highlighted a string of breaches, including a lack of lighting which would have made it “difficult, if not impossible” for the excavator operator to have seen Mr Walker.

She added that the gap between the fuel tank and the machine was “sufficiently small” to cause serious or fatal crushing injuries when rotating, and that the operator did not have a clear line of sight to some areas around the tank – including where Mr Walker, from Dundee, had been standing.

And in contradiction to company policy, there were no barriers or signs surrounding the tank – a breach missed by senior staff members during two site walk-throughs that day.

Mrs Nicholson said: “This incident was foreseeable. Balfour Beatty failed to ensure that the safe system of work that had been produced was fully implemented throughout the site, exposing members of the workforce to a greater risk.”

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Mr Walker was pronounced dead at the scene by paramedics and, immediately after, the contractor suspended work at the site.

It also sent out a company-wide memo demanding that all similar projects were paused until managers could be assured that safety criteria were being met.

Solicitor Barry Smith, who represented the firm at the hearing, said: “The company fell short.”

But he also asked Sheriff Morag McLaughlin to consider what happened an “isolated incident,” and pointed to the slew of additional safety measures implemented after Mr Walker’s death as a sign of how seriously it was taking the matter.

Mr Smith added: “On behalf of the company I want to offer the sincere condolences of everyone involved in the business – from the top to the bottom – to the family of Mr Walker.

“He was a long-standing and valued employee and I’m told that he was well known by a great number of people in the company and he was very well liked.”

After hearing statements from the prosecution and defence, Sheriff McLaughlin fined Balfour Beatty £600,000, to be paid within 28 days.

The Third Don Crossing, later renamed the Diamond Bridge, was opened in June 2016. Four months later, bosses unveiled a poignant tribute in Mr Walker’s memory, renaming the footpath beside the bridge Walker’s Way.