A road worker who died in a tipper truck accident was driven to the site of the tragedy while standing in the bucket of a digger alongside two workmates, a fatal accident inquiry has heard.
Foreman William Black, 55, was killed after being hit by a reversing lorry while carrying out roadworks on the B9005 Fyvie to Methlick road near Gight.
A fatal accident inquiry at Banff Sheriff Court is looking into the circumstances of the incident and yesterday heard that more than half of the road crew working alongside Mr Black had not received risk assessment awareness training.
‘It was just a runup in the digger bucket’
The six-strong squad, comprising foreman Mr Black, three council road workers and two sub-contracted workers, were repairing Storm Frank flood damage when the accident happened in January 2016.
Labourer Steven Tough told the inquiry he had joined Mr Black’s squad a matter of weeks before and that the pair, along with one other workmate, was driven up the hill to the site while standing in the front of a “slightly elevated” JCB bucket carrying their rakes and shovels.
“I can’t remember whose idea that was,” the 42-year-old said. “It was just a run up in the digger bucket.”
He added it was not commonplace to do this and that the three men got out of the bucket mid-way up the hill.
His counterpart, Kevin Malcolm, 48, earlier told the court he had seen this done before and that it was Mr Black’s idea that they get into the bucket, although he gave no reason for telling his charges to do so.
Black’s death had a ‘horrific effect’
Digger driver Gary Murdoch, who was working for the council as sub-contractor, told the inquiry that Mr Black’s accident had a “horrific effect” on him personally and that he now takes medication to help with stress and sleeping.
He added that he now “does not recall” carrying the men in the bucket at the time but that he received a written warning from Aberdeenshire Council over the practice.
Reliving the moment Mr Black was hit by the reversing lorry, he said: “I just saw Mr Black beginning to fall, then the lorry wheels were on top of him. I automatically blasted the digger horn and flashed the lights.”
Mr Murdoch, 52, was one of two sub-contractors working in the team on the day of the accident.
Lorry driver Christopher Penfold was acquitted of causing his death by careless driving after a trial in 2019.
And yesterday Mr Murdoch made similar claims that he had never seen the health and safety documents presented before him by fiscal depute Roderick Urquhart, nor had he been invited to attend toolbox training or meetings with the council’s health and safety officials prior to the accident.
Gaps in Aberdeenshire Council training
The local authority’s own employees also alleged similar inconsistencies and gaps in their own health and safety training.
Roller driver Michael Gerrie, 64, was presented with a copy of his training record up to January 2016, which included a list of available training considered either “essential” or “desirable” for the job role.
Despite both the risk assessment awareness and banksman training falling under the “essential” category, he said he had not received them prior to the accident.
Similarly, when record copies were shown to Mr Malcolm and Mr Tough they confirmed the same, with the former saying his record wrongly showed he had been given an initial basic online induction.
Mr Tough also said he had not even received a copy of the council’s health and safety handbook.
Today each of those men recalled to the court the moment they realised Mr Black has been hurt.
Roller driver Mr Gerrie, 64, grew up alongside Mr Black, and initially assumed his foreman had been involved in a car accident.
He said: “I sat at the junction, at the Smiddy and rolled myself a cigarette and had that.
“There was still no movement so I started moving up the hill. Just before the lorry, Kevin Malcolm stopped me and told me ‘it’s not good’.
“He said Bill had been run over.
“I started looking for a car or something, but there was nothing there. That was it. The accident had happened.”
The inquiry continues this week.