The tipper truck driver who accidentally reversed over a colleague has criticised workmates who ‘disappeared’ from the scene of the tragedy.
Christopher Penfold was speaking on the first day of a fatal accident inquiry into the death of 55-year-old William Black, who died in the incident near Turriff in January 2016.
During his evidence at Banff Sheriff Court yesterday Mr Penfold said had never been shown the local authority’s health and safety guidelines despite working regularly with teams, including the six-strong crew led by Mr Black, as a sub-contactor.
‘Everybody had disappeared … nobody was prepared to give me a hand’
Mr Penfold’s voice cracked with emotion as he described the moment Mr Black was run over.
He said: “I heard the blaring of the horn from the digger, heard a rumble under my back wheel, looked in the mirror and saw a fluorescent jacket under my rear wheel.
“I had to make a decision and thought ‘do I stay here and call the fire brigade and they jack the lorry off? Or do I….’
“I drove forward again.”
The former member of the British Army’s Royal Corps of Transport, who said memories of the accident have never left him, claimed none of his workmates were prepared to help in the wake of the incident.
He said: “I grabbed my phone as I got out of the lorry, called 999 and spoke to the emergency services as I went to Bill to assess the situation.
“The emergency services operator asked me if there was anybody there that could give me a hand. Everybody had disappeared…nobody was prepared to give me a hand. I had to carry out CPR and put my phone on loud speaker.”
He carried on trying to save Mr Black’s life on his own until the team’s supervisor Walter Bruce rushed from another job to the scene.
It came as “no surprise” when police and paramedics, who arrived minutes later, pronounced Mr Black dead at the scene.
“I realised that Bill had expired when I was doing CPR,” Mr Penfold added.
Health and safety concerns
Mr Penfold criticised Aberdeenshire Council for not sharing its health and safety handbook with him.
He said: “It is all right having all that detail there but there is no inductions for sub-contractors.
“It’s all very well them having procedures, but it’s no good if they don’t train the people that need to know those procedures.”
Fiscal depute Roderick Urquhart read three separate pieces of policy from the council’s health and safety documents to the court, all of which suggest reversing lorries should be done only as a “last resort” and even then with the use of a designed banksman – a person tasked with directing the vehicle.
Mr Penfold, 60, said none of this was conveyed to him, or indeed other sub-contractors, and that it was “not uncommon to reverse half a mile with no banksman”.
The inquiry also heard how in the moments leading up to the accident – at roadworks on the B9005 Methlick to Fyvie road near Gight – he watched council workers travel up the hill standing in the bucket of a JCB digger, before he began reversing his 5.5 tonne load of aggregate around 187 metres up the opposite lane, on the instructions of Mr Black.
No risk assessment carried out beforehand
Mr Black’s supervisor Walter Bruce, who heads up the roads depot teams from Ellon and Turriff, also gave evidence to the inquiry.
He told sheriff Robert Frazer that the road edge repairs that Mr Black and his team were working on had been ordered following the severe flooding during Storm Frank several weeks before.
He said they were classed as “emergency works” – meaning there was no job pack, and therefore no risk assessment, created in advance.
He said sub-contractors are now given copies of these as standard, unlike prior to the accident.
‘Dramatic change in culture’
Mr Penfold later agreed: “The whole culture has changed dramatically since the accident.
“Now there’s two banksmen put in place and people using radios. Sub-contractors are invited to safety meetings now by the council, but they never were prior to the accident.”
The inquiry continues this week.