The Environment Agency has been ordered to pay £200k following conviction under s 2(1) HSWA after an incident which led to the death of an employee, Simon Wenn. Mr Wenn had been operating a crawler crane during an operation to dredge the bed of a watercourse in frosty conditions. Timber tracking mats had been laid to provide better grip and protect the grassy bank from damage, but whilst rotating the crane to reposition the mats, the crane began to slip and eventually tipped into the water. A banksman immediately raised the alarm, but the crane door was on the floor of the waterbed which prevented Mr Wenn from escaping and caused him to drown.
The subsequent HSE investigation found a number of errors in the planning and supervision of the operation. It was also found that whilst the crane had been used for dredging since 1998, it had been fitted with a boom which was 19m in length, when in fact the manufacturer’s instructions provided that the maximum length of the boom should be restricted to 16m. In addition, whilst only one chain had been used to lift the mats clear of the water in previous operations, the presence of ice meant that two chains were required to prevent excess load being applied to the crane.
The incident was similar to one in Norfolk in 2008. There, a smaller tracked machine had not led to a fatality, but it was argued that the Environment Agency had failed to heed warnings and learn lessons from this previous incident. In addition to the fine, the Environment Agency was ordered to pay £28,548 in prosecution costs.