UK Highways Agency Given Crown Censure for Worker's Death

The censure is the equivalent of a criminal prosecution, according to the Health and Safety Executive.

A Crown Censure – the equivalent of a criminal prosecution – was issued Jan. 8 to the UK Highways Agency for safety failings after an experienced traffic officer who was struck and killed by a car in September 2012. John Walmsley, 59, and a co-worker were dispatched to assist the driver of a car that had spun around after heavy rain and ended up pointing in the wrong direction in a live lane on the highway. The workers had towed the vehicle to the shoulder and were waiting for a tow truck along with the car's uninjured driver, according to the Health and Safety Executive.

Walmsley walked down the shoulder, using his phone, to watch for the truck. Another car lost control on the same turn, skidded across the highway, and struck Walmsley, who died at the scene. The second driver was subsequently convicted of causing death by careless driving.

HSE investigated and decided to issue the censure after identifying failures in the Highways Agency's quarterly supervision checks at the location where Walmsley worked. HSE said "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."

"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," HSE Inspector Guy Widdowson said.

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