Construction Health and Safety Consultancy and CDM Adviser Services

Fatal Accident Shows Importance of Regular Health and Safety Reviews
Posted by David Cant on October 13, 2014

The death of Scottish forestry worker Ewan MacGregor has been ruled an accident of his own making by an inquiry into the accident. Mr MacGregor was killed by a 25-tonne timber transport machine that lurched forward and crushed him, the inquiry led by Sheriff William Gilchrist decided.

A catalogue of errors

Book labelled Health and SafetyInvestigators arriving at the scene of the accident found that the transport machine’s handbrake was disengaged – evidently Mr MacGregor had not applied it before beginning work. The inquiry also heard that at the time of the accident, Mr MacGregor had been standing next to the machine banging on a faulty fuel pump to the engine.

The inquiry ruled that the root cause of the accident had been MacGregor’s decision to try and start the ignition as he stood on one of the vehicle’s caterpillar tracks. Because the handbrake was off, the vehicle lurched forward, pulling him under the tracks as the transport machine slid down the slope on which it was parked.

It was also ruled that MacGregor should not have tried to start the vehicle as he was not fully in control of it at the time.

Completely avoidable accident

The tragedy of this particular incident is that it was completely avoidable. Giving evidence to the inquiry, Mr MacGregor’s employer told the board that he had “years of experience” using similar machinery and would have known how to operate it safely. But the fact remains that Ewan MacGregor ignored his own training and experience.

This incident also raises an important issue for employers and experienced employees – ensuring that corners are not being cut and that standards are being maintained. Where unsafe working practices go unchallenged, they quickly become ingrained habits that place lives in danger.

Regular reviews are essential

Regardless of how long an employee has been doing their job, there are always potential improvements to be made. Often annual reviews focus on how well a role is performed, but a comprehensive audit should also look at the question of how safely the employee is working.

Periodic reviews of risk assessments should already be a standard part of your business’ health and safety provisions, but for maximum employee protection could be amended to include additional assessments of working practices. For best results, unannounced inspections could catch failures, such as a disengaged handbrake, before they become fatal. It is for this very reason that the HSE often performs unannounced inspections to assess the every-day applications of health and safety legislation by an organisation.

By implementing a blanket policy on reviews, well-experienced staff like Mr MacGregor will also be evaluated. Often these long-serving, well-experienced employees are missed by safety reviews simply because it is assumed that they both know and adhere to safety guidelines at all times. Sadly the case of Ewan MacGregor shows that this assumption is not always justified.

So over to you – does your business regularly review how employees are adhering to safety guidelines? If not, why not?


David Cant is a Chartered Safety and Health Practitioner extraordinaire. He has a wealth of Industry experience and is the MD of Veritas Consulting. David also Blogs about Health and Safety here Health and Safety Consultants

His aim is to flavour Health and Safety with integrity, served with a side of humour You can find David on - Twitter and Google also Linkedin

This post has been filed in: Construction Health and Safety, Health and Safety, Health and Safety Consultancy, Health and Safety Services

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