Road builder fined £250,000 after biker's death

'A wholly avoidable accident' say Health and Safety Executive after biker becomes 12th victim in five years

THE HEALTH and Safety Executive (HSE) is urging construction companies to ensure they carry out proper planning, inspection and maintenance programmes of their projects while construction work is in progress.

Alfred McAlpine Capital Projects Ltd was fined £250,000 and ordered to pay £5,859 in costs for breaching Section 3(1) of the Health & Safety At Work etc Act 1974 (HSWA) at Maidstone Crown Court today following an HSE investigation into the death of a motorcyclist at a roadworks site in August 2005. The company had entered a guilty plea at an earlier hearing. HSE Inspector John Underwood said:

"This was an wholly avoidable incident which led to unnecessary loss of life. The 'Road Closed' signs and the traffic cones had been missing for more than eight weeks before the incident - yet the contractor was working in the area almost every day.

"The temporary traffic management system should have been checked at least once a day but this was never done properly. The barriers were only 450mm high and from a distance they could have been mistaken for a shadow or a change in the colour of the tarmac. It is clear the motorcyclist braked hard and tried to avoid the barriers but could not stop in time.

"In the last five years 12 members of the public have lost their lives in reportable incidents relating to road work construction activity. It is vital that contractors provide clear information to the travelling public on the approach to road works. Some of the original signs and cones may have been vandalised or damaged by construction traffic or used in other places by construction workers. Contractors must actively manage inspections and replace damaged and missing items."

The fatal incident occurred on 29 August 2005 on the former A228 old Ratcliffe Highway, which is a single carriageway road near Hoo on the Isle of Grain, Kent. The motorcyclist hit temporary concrete crash barriers weighing over two tonnes each that had been laid in a line across the road. There were no warning signs or traffic cones along the route to warn drivers of the closure. The old A228 was being downgraded to a local through-road following the opening of a new section of dual carriageway built by Alfred McAlpine Capital
Projects Ltd running parallel to it. When the old A228 was closed a series of 'Road Closed Ahead' signs and traffic cones were put in place along the route. However, by late June 2005 these had disappeared and there was nothing to warn drivers about the concrete barriers.