Company, manager and excavator operator fined after workers were seriously injured

J Murphy Aggregates Ltd, Shaun Murphy and James Duggan have been convicted by Leeds Crown Court of safety breaches after a worker was struck by a falling excavator.

Additionally, the same company was convicted of safety violations in a separate incident after a railcar driver suffered serious crushing injuries to his right leg when he was dragged under a 360 excavator.

York Crown Court had previously heard the company was engaged in the management of non-hazardous waste, typically tarmac, brick rubble and broken concrete.

The sole director is Shaun Murphy. Prior to the incident, the company occasionally used agency personnel to perform certain tasks.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that Duggan had originally been employed as a crusher operator through an employment agency and held a Construction Plant Competence Scheme (CPCS) card to do so.

However, he was later employed directly by Murphy to operate a crawler excavator, despite not holding the formal qualifications to operate one.

Duggan was using the excavator when the ground below collapsed. The excavator tumbled down a pile and collided with a worker who was catapulted from the crushing machine he was maintaining at the time.

The 58-year-old worker suffered multiple fractures to both legs, a dislocated kneecap, a fracture to the right side of his pelvis and hip, two punctured lungs and a fracture to the right side of his skull.

He also needed ten stitches to his head. He remained in hospital for a year, during which time his right hip was removed. His right leg is now significantly shorter than his left leg.

J Murphy Aggregates, of Viaduct Street, Pudsey, pleaded guilty to breaching Sections 2(1) and 3(1) of the Occupational Health and Safety etc Act 1974. The company was fined £70,000.

Manager Shaun Murphy, also of Pudsey, pleaded guilty to breaching section 2(1) and section 3(1) under section 37(1) of the Health and work safety, etc.

He was sentenced to an eight-month custodial sentence, suspended for two years, and 160 hours of community service. He is also required to attend 20 days of rehabilitation activity requirement and pay a fee of £2,242.50.

Duggan, an excavator operator, of Snawthorne Grove, Castleford, pleaded guilty to breaching Section 7(a) and Section 3(2) of the Occupational Health and Safety etc Act 1974. He was sentenced to an eight-month custodial sentence, suspended for two years. , and the order to pay costs of £2,242.50.

J Murphy Aggregates was also convicted in connection with the later incident in which a railcar driver was injured.

Leeds Magistrates’ Court heard that on December 4, 2020, the wagon driver’s dump vehicle was loaded with waste by a 360 excavator.

The driver approached the side of the wagon to retrieve the overhanging waste, before passing between the shovel and the wagon and moving to the rear of the vehicle near the right-hand lane of the shovel. The excavator moved forward, dragging his right leg underneath and crushing him.

His right leg was broken and ungloved below the knee. He underwent several operations to repair open fractures and underwent muscle and skin grafts. A muscle graft then failed in his right ankle and following further complications his right leg was amputated below the knee.

His left leg was also badly scarred and damaged by the skin and muscle grafts taken from it.

An investigation by the HSE found there was no effective separation between heavy vehicles and pedestrians in the yard.

CCTV footage from the two weeks before the accident showed several occasions when machinery in the plant nearly hit a pedestrian. In the period immediately preceding the accident, other pedestrians are seen walking in the danger zone of the excavator.

J Murphy Aggregates pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Occupational Health and Safety etc Act 1974. For this breach, the company was fined £50,000. And he was ordered to pay a total of £8,750 in costs.

HSE Inspector David Beaton said: ‘These cases are a damning condemnation of a company that has always allowed unsafe work systems.

“Shaun Murphy failed to ensure that James Duggan had the skills, knowledge, experience and training to operate the excavator on site. James Duggan knew he was only qualified to operate a crusher as permitted by his CPCS card.

“The result was this tragic incident that could so easily have been avoided using the right control measures and safe working practices.

“To have another worker injured as a result of J Murphy’s failure to implement safe work systems is deplorable. Segregation measures should have been put in place to prevent pedestrians from being in the danger zone.