Company Fined When Act of Vandalism Hurts Bystander

March 11, 2003
Saying the engineering company failed to control public safety risks, Britain's Health and Safety Executive (HSE) fined Walter Lawrence (Civil & Mechanical) Ltd. £10,000 (approximately $160,000) and ordered it to pay £25,000 in costs when a piece of construction equipment operated by the company crushed a 12-year-old boy against a car.

An investigation by HSE of accident in October 2001 determined that a water truck left in the street by the company was tampered with, causing it to roll down a slope, crushing the boy. He was airlifted to the hospital, suffering from a fractured pelvis. The double-axle truck, similar in size to a small car, weighed approximately two tons.

At the time of the accident, the truck was secured with a hand brake and chocked with a piece of water pipe. Unauthorized movement of the truck was not considered in the company's risk assessment, despite the fact they had already experienced several episodes of petty vandalism while working on that project.

"The company was aware of the risk because there had been other instances of vandalism, and each morning signs and barriers were found to have been knocked down," said Simon Chilcott, and HSE inspector. "The specific risk of unauthorized movement [of equipment] by children in the neighborhood does not appear to be considered."

Noting the incident could have resulted in the death of the boy or others, Chilcott noted, "Wheel clamping would have been reasonably practicable. It would have deterred vandalism and minimized the risks to the public."

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