Engineering company fined £600,000 after a specialist vehicle toppled over during work at Harborough railway station

The shocked cab operator was trapped and had to be dragged clear by their workmates after they kicked their way through the tough glass windscreen to free the worker

By Red Williams
Tuesday, 16th November 2021, 1:07 pm
Updated Tuesday, 16th November 2021, 1:08 pm
Amey Rail Ltd admitted breaching critical health and safety laws after the excavator lifting vehicle overturned as staff carried out an improvement scheme at the busy mainline station.
Amey Rail Ltd admitted breaching critical health and safety laws after the excavator lifting vehicle overturned as staff carried out an improvement scheme at the busy mainline station.

A rail engineering company has been fined £600,000 after a specialist vehicle toppled over during work at Market Harborough railway station.

Amey Rail Ltd admitted breaching critical health and safety laws after the excavator lifting vehicle overturned as staff carried out an improvement scheme at the busy mainline station.

The shocked cab operator was trapped and had to be dragged clear by their workmates after they kicked their way through the tough glass windscreen to free the worker.

The Office of Rail and Road (ORR) brought the prosecution at Leicester magistrates’ court under the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974.

The rail regulator acted for failure to ensure lifting operations involving lifting equipment were properly planned, supervised and carried out in a safe manner.

The incident happened in the early hours of October 21, 2018, when a road-rail excavator vehicle overturned during an unsafe lift.

The vehicle's operator had to be pulled from the cab.

Several other rail workers were nearby at the time of the accident but luckily no one was seriously injured, the court heard.

Investigators found there was a late change in the equipment being used on the night of the accident which had “inadequate lifting capacity for the planned works”.

“To overcome this, it was established that the length of the track to be lifted would need to be reduced from 30 to 20 feet.

“This critical change was not managed or communicated correctly and resulted in the track panels being cut to the original length of 30 feet – exceeding the capacity for the excavators to be used,” said the ORR.

“When lifting started, the on-board safety systems on the excavators showed that the weight being lifted was exceeding what excavators could safely handle.

“ORR found in its investigation that these warnings were ignored and the safety systems were disabled to enable the work to continue.”

The rail regulator also found that radio-based communication system between the operators and the lifting supervisor developed a defect.

“Despite replacement equipment being available on site, work continued with the inadequate communications equipment,” said the ORR.

“These failures led to one of the two excavators becoming overloaded beyond its capacity and toppling onto its side, trapping a worker in the cab, when undertaking a tandem lift of a track panel later established to be 39ft long.

“Several members of the lifting team and others in the nearby vicinity kicked through the toughened glass windscreen to drag a worker clear of the cab.”

Amey was also ordered to pay £15,119.49 costs and a victim surcharge of £170.

Ian Prosser, ORR's HM Chief Inspector of Railways, said afterwards: "The risks of failing to comply with the lifting regulations are well known throughout the industry and clearly foreseeable.

“In this case basic errors were made and it is by sheer luck that no one was seriously hurt.”

He added: “None of these failures to follow well-established procedures, nor the isolation of safety systems on the excavators, were identified despite the presence of two senior members of staff on site during the night to manage the work.

"This meant Amey failed to take measures in order to adequately manage the risks presented when tandem lifting loads of the size and weight of those undertaken on 21 October 2018.”

An Amey spokesperson said after the case: “We can confirm at a hearing at Leicester Magistrates Court on Friday 12th November 2021, Amey Rail Ltd (ARL), pleaded guilty to a breach of Regulation 8(1) of the Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998.

“This related to an incident that occurred in October 2018 at a track location close to Market Harborough station.

“Thankfully, the incident did not result in any serious injuries.

“The Court acknowledged that given the hazardous environment in which ARL operate, they take health and safety seriously and have a good record, but on this occasion had fallen short of its own high standards.”

They added: “We regret that this incident took place.

“The health, safety and wellbeing of our employees, supply chain partners and the public is our top priority.

“We are committed to safe working practices at all times and reviewed our operating procedures following this incident.”