Sunday 24 February 2019

Company where young employee died after falling into stone crusher fined €500,000

Castlebar District Court
Castlebar District Court

Tom Shiel

A firm has been fined a total of €500,000 by a Circuit Court Judge for breaches of health and safety arising from the death of a young employee who fell into a stone crusher almost four years ago.

Harrington Concrete and Quarries, which is based in Kilkelly, Co Mayo, must also pay €7,690.33 costs in a prosecution by the State following  the death of Joseph Harrington (27) on June 11, 2015.

Mr Harrington, no relation of his employer, was killed instantly when he fell an estimated 17 feet into a stone crusher in a quarry at Carrownascoltia, Aghamore.

The company, which has a staff of 190, pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing to breaches of health and safety.

At that hearing at Castlebar Circuit Criminal Court that, Judge Rory MacCabe said he found it "really disturbing" that Mr Harrington's death "could so easily have been avoided".

The judge then put back sentencing in order to consider mitigating factors and study details about the finances of the company.

When the matter came up for sentencing this afternoon Judge MacCabe noted that the company have made considerable effort to carry out remedial work in their operation - "a dangerous operation".

Imposing a fine of €1million - mitigated by 50 per cent to €500,000 - the judge said the fine has to be proportional to the wrongdoing.

 Judge MacCabe refused a request by counsel for the defence that the company be given a lengthy time to pay the fine. He stipulated that the €500,000 must be paid within six months.

The €7,690 costs awarded are to cover the outlay of the Health and Safety authority which carried out an investigation and the costs incurred by the office of the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP).

The judge sympathised with the family and girlfriend of the deceased for "the awful event" commenting that nothing can bring the victim back.

 At a previous court hearing, Padraig McMahon, an Inspector with the Health and Safety Authority (HAS), told Patrick Reynolds, counsel for the State, that there were no witnesses to the accident but it was suspected Mr Harrington fell into the crusher while trying to release a blockage.

In addition to a lack of physical barriers to prevent someone falling into the crusher, the company should also have procedures in place to deal with blockages, Mr McMahon stated.

Simple, inexpensive, steps which would have been prevented such an accident had been outlined by the HSA Inspector, the judge stated.

Hazel McCann, girlfriend of the deceased, read a victim impact statement to the previous hearing in which she said no answers had been forthcoming from the company as to what happened.

The court has previously been told that since the tragedy the company had invested in the region of €500,000 in remedial works to ensure that similar tragedies repeated.

Prosecuting counsel, Patrick Reynolds, told today's sentencing hearing that a €10,000 bank draft was sent by the company to the Harrington family to cover the funeral costs but the draft had never been cashed or lodged.

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