Gravesend: Highways Agency Ensure Staff Safety

The Highways Agency say action has been taken to ensure the safety of staff after a traffic officer from Gravesend was killed on the M25

John Walmsley was struck by a car that had lost control between junctions 4 and 5 in September 2012.

The Highways has responded after the Health and Safety Executive issued a Crown Censure which is the equivalent of a criminal prosecution. They said:

"John is always in our thoughts and our deepest sympathies remain with his family, friends and colleagues.

While the Health and Safety Executive investigation was prompted by John’s death on duty in September 2012, the details of the case brought against the Agency relate specifically to a failure to provide the necessary supervision of traffic officers based at Dartford outstation in accordance with our own procedures and to ensure the health and safety of all our employees.

Accepting and respecting this judgement, we have taken steps to ensure that our procedures are appropriate to the health and safety of our staff, and that we all follow those procedures. We remain absolutely committed to the health and safety of our people, learning from this experience.”

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE), which investigated, took the decision to deliver a Censure after identifying failures in the Highways Agency's quarterly supervision checks at the Dartford outstation.

HSE found that despite the introduction in July 2011 by the Highways Agency of formal quarterly supervision checks of Traffic Officers by a team manager, these quarterly supervision checks were not carried out with Mr Walmsley between August 2011 and the date of his death. While the Highways Agency had in place other health and safety training and policies, including informal supervisory checks, more than half the traffic officers based at the Dartford depot had also not undergone any quarterly supervision checks.

HSE said the Highways Agency therefore did not provide the necessary supervision to ensure, as far as reasonably practicable, the health and safety of its employees.

The Censure was administered at Ashford Borough Council by HSE's Regional Director (Southern Division) Tim Galloway and accepted by Mr Simon Sheldon-Wilson, Executive Director of Customer Operations for the Highways Agency.

HSE Inspector Guy Widdowson, who investigated, said:

"Mr Walmsley, who had worked as a traffic officer for seven years, was killed because he was not standing behind the safety barrier when a car crashed on the motorway. If the Highways Agency had conducted the necessary supervisory checks between July 2011 and his death the following September, it may have ensured he followed the correct safety procedures and prevented him from working the way he did.

After delivering the Censure, Tim Galloway added:

"Without proper supervision, companies have no way of knowing if their specified control measures are up to date and are being properly used. It is a vital step in controlling risks in the workplace.

This is the case for staff who work for the Highways Agency, or indeed any other similar organisation out on the UK road network, just as much as it applies to those who work within a more traditional environment."

The Highways Agency cannot face prosecution in the same way as non-Government bodies. Crown Censures are agreed procedures applicable to Crown employers instead of criminal proceedings.'

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