Labourer given 9-month suspended jail sentence over workplace accident in Greystones which left his friend with life-changing injuries

Bray Courthouse, where Wicklow Circuit Criminal Court sits.

Seán McCárthaighBray People

A labourer has received a suspended jail sentence for his role in a workplace accident in Greystones, Co Wicklow, over six years ago which left a colleague and close-friend with life-changing injuries.

Joe Flanagan (54) of Dunamaise, Stradbally, Co Laois pleaded guilty to a charge of failing to take reasonable care contrary to the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work (Construction) Regulations 2013, while working near South Beach, Greystones on December 8, 2016 with a 9-tonne site dumper.

An inspector with the Health and Safety Authority, Kevin Broderick, told a sitting of Wicklow Circuit Criminal Court that Flanagan had allowed two work colleagues to sit inside the dumper as they were travelling back to a compound.

Mr Broderick said that one of the workmen, Diarmuid Hosey, fell out of the dumper and was crushed under one of its front wheels after the vehicle went backwards while Flanagan was trying to drive up a low bank.

He told counsel for the DPP, James Kelly BL, that it was not the first time that the manoeuvre had been attempted.

Mr Broderick said Flanagan did not have the specialist qualifications recommended to drive such a vehicle.

The court heard that Flanagan and the victim were good friends and remain so despite what happened.

The HSA inspector said Mr Hosey recognised the incident should not have occurred but he did not bear any malintent towards the accused.

Cross-examined by Patrick Gageby SC for Flanagan, Mr Broderick said the defendant, who is a carpenter by trade, had been working on the site to clear a debt with an individual who had provided machinery for the project.

He also explained that the defendant had asked Mr Hosey to work with him because there was a shortage of labourers.

Mr Gageby handed in a letter to the court from his client in which Flanagan expressed regret and remorse over what had happened.

“Not a week goes by that I don’t think about it,” he wrote.

Flanagan, who said he suffered with his mental health after the accident, said he and the injured man had been friends for over 30 years.

The court heard he was a regular caller to his friend’s house after the accident to offer help and had also brought €2,000 to court for Mr Hosey.

Sentencing Flanagan to nine months in prison, Judge Patrick Quinn said he would suspend the full sentence as he believed it was unlikely the defendant would come before the court again.

The judge said a condition of the suspension would be for Flanagan to keep the peace and not come to the attention of gardaí over the relevant period of suspension.

He also refused an application by counsel for the DPP to have Flanagan pay the prosecution’s costs in the case of €2,467.

The judge also welcomed the fact that Mr Hosey’s civil action over his injuries had recently been settled.

In a separate prosecution in 2021 , the main site contractor, Brian Conneely Construction was fined €15,000 in relation to the same incident for a similar breach of regulations governing health and safety in the workplace.

In May 2022, Wicklow Circuit Criminal Court handed down an 18-month suspended sentence to the site manager, Clifford Newton, in a related case.

Commenting on the outcome of the prosecution against Flanagan, interim HSA chief executive, Mark Cullen, said the movement of large work vehicles was a well-known hazard for which risk assessments needed to be carried out to identify necessary control measures to eliminate or reduce such risk.

“In this case the failure by parties to identify the appropriate control measures and implement them significantly increased the likelihood of an incident occurring – an incident which was entirely foreseeable and preventable,” said Mr Cullen.