The family of a 28-year old man who died while operating a tarmac cutter could launch legal action against his former employers.
The man, named by magistrates as Stuart Guard, was working for a plant hire company when the accident happened.
Mr Guard, who was cutting tarmac on a road, stepped out of his cutter's cab when he became entangled in a cutting wheel that was still raised and rotating.
The man died after suffering multiple severe injuries caused by the rotating cutting blade.
The magistrates court where a Health and Safety Executive (HSE) inquest took place found that employees at Direct Plant Services - now known as South and West Highways Trenching - regularly bypassed multiple safety measures.
An emergency safety switch under the cab that stopped the engine and the cutting wheel when the seat was empty had been disabled and all three safety bypass switches for the cutting blades were engaged.
A HSE investigation found that it was normal for employees to check and change the cutter's picks after every shift, but despite this being widely regarded as a two-man job, Direct Plant Services only hired one person to complete the task.
It is thought that Mr Guard was checking the cutter's picks at the time of the accident, and would have avoided the accident if, as per industry best practice, another worker had done it for him while he stayed in the cab.
South and West Highways Trenching pleaded guilty to four serious health and safety breaches at Swindon Crown Court.
The company was fined £100,000 and ordered by a judge to pay £56,890 in costs.
After the trial, HSE inspector Helena Tinton said: "South and West Highways Trenching paid scant regard to the welfare of its employees and took dangerous shortcuts in its attitude toward safety."
"They [cutters] are fitted with safety switches for a very good reason – to prevent operators getting too close to rotating cutting wheels."
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Posted by Francesca Witney