Company Fined After ‘Perfect’ Son Crushed to Death

A firm in Hertfordshire has been fined following the tragic death of an employee who was fatally crushed.

James Rourke lost his life after being struck and run over by an excavator at Sarazen Gardens, Brampton, on 18th November 2019.

James and his family had celebrated his sister Katie’s 21st birthday the weekend before the fatal incident.

The 22-year-old site engineer had been affixing ‘warning’ work signs to fencing around the site when he was hit by the vehicle.

James, from Westcliff-on-Sea in Essex, had only joined his employer, Materials Movement Limited, months before after graduating from the University of Birmingham with a degree in geology in the summer of 2019.

The firm had been contracted to carry out ground clearance works at Sarazens Gardens in preparation for the construction of new houses.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that Materials Movement Limited had failed to adequately plan and manage the work at Sarazen Gardens. The company neglected to properly supervise the work being carried out by James and the excavator driver to ensure safety. The Baldock firm also neglected to ensure that the work was planned and managed in a way that eliminated any risk of James working near the excavator.

HSE guidance stipulates that employers must consider five primary precautions to control excavator hazards, including exclusion, clearance, visibility, plant and vehicle marshaller, and bucket attachment.

James’ mother, Clare, expressed in her victim personal statement: “The sunshine has been taken from our lives, and the dark gap is immense.

“Our profound loss is ever present; James is always missing. Missing from family events, Christmas, birthdays, holidays. Unknown to newborn family members. Unknown to new friends.

“Our house has a bedroom with no owner. Possessions we cannot bear to touch, photographs we cannot look at.

“We were an even family of six, now an odd family of five – incomplete, unbalanced.”

Materials Movement Limited, of Royston Road, Baldock, Hertfordshire, pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 15(2) of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015. The company was fined £133,330 and ordered to pay £8,500 in costs at Peterborough Magistrates’ Court on 22nd March 2024.

HSE inspector Martin Paren remarked: “This tragic incident led to the avoidable death of a young man. This death could have easily been prevented if his employer had properly planned, instructed, and supervised the work.

“Our thoughts today are with the family of James, who should have been protected from such harm at work – because of the failings of Materials Movement Ltd, he was not.”

This prosecution was initiated by HSE enforcement lawyer Jon Mack and supported by HSE paralegal officer David Shore.

Clare added: “James was perfect. He was a big part of our close family unit. He would do anything for us. We cherished him dearly. He was a compassionate, valued friend to many and was known for his humour and gentle nature.”