Monday 19 August 2019

Irish university fined €80k after employee died in freak workplace accident

University College Cork
University College Cork

Ralph Riegel

AN Irish university was fined €80,000 and ordered to pay €4,000 costs over the death of a member of its governing body in a freak workplace accident.

Frank McGrath (58) died from extensive chest injuries sustained while he was working near a cherry-picker or elevated work platform machine on the University College Cork (UCC) campus two years ago.

The machine was being used for campus maintenance work when the fatal accident occurred on March 5 2013.

UCC admitted two breaches of the Safety, Health & Welfare Act, 2005, after a prosecution was brought following an investigation into the tragedy by the Health & Safety Authority (HSA).

A Cork Coroner's Court inquest into Mr McGrath’s death was adjourned last March when the HSA confirmed that a prosecution was imminent.

The UCC summonses cited that they “fail(ed) to ensure...the safety, health and welfare at work of your employees in that you did fail to manage and conduct work activity, specifically the movement and operation of a mobile elevated work platform vehicle.”

Judge Donagh McDonagh in Cork Circuit Criminal Court was told that UCC co-operated fully with the HSE probe and a detailed new safety assessment policy is now in place for all vehicle movements on the 23,000 student campus.

The fatal accident occurred as Mr McGrath was acting as a safety monitor or 'banksman' for the six ton elevated work platform as it was moved from one part of the UCC campus to another.

HSA inspector Michael Flynn warned that the type of machine involved is "very dangerous" because of a known blind spot to its front.

Mr McGrath was apparently struck by the slow-moving machine, knocked to the ground and then run over by it.

The maximum speed of the vehicle is 5kph.

Judge McDonagh described it as a truly tragic case.

He noted that the university had moved quickly to address the issues highlighted by the incident and had co-operated fully with the HSA.

He fined UCC €80,000 and directed they pay €4,000 in costs.

Mr McGrath of Sarsfield Terrace, Richmond Hill, Cork worked in UCC's maintenance and engineering section having joined UCC in 1986.

He was a highly respected member of staff and also served on the college's governing body.

UCC last night said their thoughts are with the McGrath family.

"UCC is fully committed to the health, safety and well-being of its employees, has a comprehensive health and safety system in place and carries out regular training sessions for all employees as well as risk assessments for all its operations," a college statement said.

Cork Coroner Dr Myra Cullinane was told last year Mr McGrath died from extensive chest injuries caused by blunt force trauma on the evening of March 5 2013.

The cherry picker machine was being used to attend to the campus lighting systems.

As a tribute to Mr McGrath, UCC planted a special tree in his memory and has also dedicated a special staff award in his name.

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