GP Wood is fined €90k after workplace tragedy

March 11th, 2023 11:50 AM

By Southern Star Team

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ENNISKEANE timber yard  GP Wood has been fined €90,000 having pleaded guilty to three charges under the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act following an incident in which a 53-year-old employee died in 2019. 

Frances Murphy, health and safety inspector, previously told Cork Circuit Criminal Court that on February 26th, 2019 they were informed of an incident which had claimed the life of Pat Lacey who had worked with the company for three decades. 

Ms Murphy told the court that when CCTV of the scene was examined it showed that a front loader which loads logs at the mill collided with the late Mr Lacey. Ms Murphy said the fault was that essentially in the area where large machinery was working, pedestrians were not segregated from that work area.

‘The late Pat Lacey walked across an area where the machine was operating.’

She said that there was a pedestrian area in place at the time but there was ‘no signage or yellow hatch markings.’

The company has made a quarter of a million euro in improvements at the site following the death of their valued employee. Judge Helen Boyle said that she accepted that the company was extremely remorseful and had co-operated fully with the HSA. In sentencing, Judge Boyle said that it was clear that Mr Lacey was a much-loved man who was not only cherished by his family but by management and his colleagues at GP Wood. The company has erected a plaque in his memory on site.

GP Wood had pleaded guilty that as an employer they failed to manage and conduct work activities, specifically the operation of a CAT938M front-loader vehicle, at or near the log storage yard area of the premises in such a was at to ensure the safety, health and welfare of employees, and in particular that they failed to ensure the segregation of pedestrians from the operational area of the vehicle.

The second charge, which the company pleaded guilty to, was of failing to provide systems of work in similar circumstances that were planned, organised, performed, maintained, revised as appropriate so as to be safe and without risk to health.

The third charge to which they entered a guilty plea, was a failure to ensure organisational measures were taken to prevent employees on foot coming within the area of operation of the self-propelled work equipment, specifically the front-loader vehicle.

There were no specific charges in relation to Mr Lacey’s death.

Three siblings of the dead man, his sisters Caitriona, Carmel and brother John told Judge Boyle of their grief at the passing of a ‘dear brother’ whose ‘joy for life and sense of fun’ was much admired by all who knew him.

Mr Tom Creed, SC, representing the company said that Mr Lacey ‘was part of the company family and was a colleague and friend who is missed by everyone.

‘It is hoped this (case) will bring closure to Pat’s family but they realise the grieving process will be with them forever. His colleagues remember what happened every time they walk past the spot where the accident happened.

‘A plaque has been placed on the spot with the words “Always remembered, Never forgotten”.’

He said the company was in failure of enforcement in not disciplining people for failing to use the walkway. 

‘There was never a question of any financial profit or of
deliberate breach of safety with a view to making profit. 

‘This was an isolated incident with devastating consequences. €250,000 worth of infrastructural work has
been carried out since and its goal was pedestrian safety and they continue to modify the site. 

‘They have introduced several other new walkways on the site at considerable expense.’

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