It’s “highly likely” someone would have been directing reversing vehicles on the day a road worker was crushed to death if council health and safety policies been enforced, a fatal accident inquiry has been told.
The investigation into the death of a council roads worker William Black has heard that no risk assessment had been done and no banksman was on duty to guide the lorries.
Mr Black, 55, was crushed by a reversing lorry during road repairs near Turriff in January 2016.
A three-day fatal accident inquiry into his death was held at Banff Sheriff Court last month, and now final submissions from those involved have been heard by sheriff Robert Frazer.
‘Randomised checks’ now take place
Procurator fiscal Roderick Urguhart referred to the evidence shared by Mr Black’s colleagues and sub-contracted workmates, which suggested health and safety procedures were not followed and there was little enforcement of them from higher up the chain of command.
Christopher Penfold, who was acquitted of death by careless driving after a trial in 2019, told the FAI that he had never been shown the local authority’s health and safety guidelines, known as the Blue Book, despite working regularly with teams.
“There should have been a risk assessment done and none was found,” Mr Urquhart said yesterday. “We now know that there is a randomised checking of risk assessments.
“Had those that had been working there known at the time that adherence to Aberdeenshire Council policy was being checked on and acted upon when there had been a departure from it, and that there was a checking of risk assessments, then it’s far more likely they would have known the correct procedure and it would have been adhered to by everyone.
“If the policy on using a banksman had been enforced, through randomised checks, then it is highly likely a different approach would have been taken and a banksman would have been used.”
An overhaul of procedure followed
The local authority’s roads and landscapes manager for Buchan and Formartine, Philip Leiper, told the inquiry that he urgently checked the relevant policies the day after the accident, in particular the guidelines relating to reversing vehicles.
He also explained that the council has put in a place an overhaul of its health and safety procedures relating to safety on site and risk assessment, and the use of banksmen to guide reversing vehicles was now standard.
However, at the time, he could not definitively tell the court whether all sub-contracted staff are now given a copy of the Blue Book.
A signed statement from Mr Leiper has since been submitted to the inquiry stating he did not want to provide information which he “was not sure was accurate” to the court while under oath, but he was now sure that all embedded workers are given a copy of the book.
With that in mind, Mr Urquhart withdrew one of his recommendations which suggested that “oversight” by the council be addressed.
Mr Urquhart also told the sheriff it appeared Mr Black had suffered “very significant catastrophic injuries” including rib, lung and brain damage and that should findings conclude that his death was “instantaneous” this should be shared with his family in the hope of bringing them “some comfort”.
No date has been given for the sheriff to share his findings yet.