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Council heavily fined over safety failings after road sweeper kills biker
Sevenoaks District Council pleaded guilty to safety failings after a member of the public was killed when he collided with a road sweeper. In the incident, which took place in September 2010, a council road sweeper lorry was cleaning the outside of a dual-lane slip road when Derek McCulloch (58) drove into the back of the sweeper on his motorbike. Mr McCulloch was pronounced dead at the scene.
Maidstone Crown Court heard that the road sweeper had been travelling at approximately four mph and that there was a bend in the road which was likely to have prevented the motorcyclist from seeing the road sweeper. Despite the road sweeper having flashing beacons and a 360 sign on the back (a big arrow that indicates that vehicles should pass by) there should have been significantly more controls in place for sweeping a stretch of road like this.
A Health & Safety Executive investigation found that there was no road-specific risk assessment in place; just a generic one covering all road sweeping carried out by Sevenoaks District Council. This did not identify all suitable control measures needed for sweeping this dual-lane slip road.
The council was fined £50,000 and ordered to pay £32,000 in costs after pleading guilty to breaching sections 2(1) and 3(1) of the Health & Safety at Work etc. Act 1974.
HSE Inspector Guy Widdowson said after the case was heard last week: "Competent risk assessments are essential when carrying out any significant task. These risk assessments need to identify the appropriate controls and such controls need to be implemented and checked to ensure they remain suitable and sufficient. Relevant industry guidance is there to be viewed when deciding what controls are needed.
"This incident shows how important it is for local councils and companies, to properly assess the risk of work tasks. If the task had been properly risk assessed, planned and suitable controls used, Mr McCulloch would not have been killed. This is truly a tragic case and was entirely preventable."
14th January 2016