Company fined €600,000 following death of worker at quarry site

Judge criticises ‘certain level of complacency’ at site where worker refuelling vehicles was fatally injured when struck by digger

A plant hire and construction company has been fined €600,000 over the death of a young worker who was knocked down at its quarry site.

The partner of Christopher Miley (31) told Dublin Circuit Criminal Court that when he kissed her and their three daughters goodbye on the morning of October 28th, 2021, they had no idea that the man who was their “safe place” and “entire world” would never return home.

Mr Miley, who was contracted to refuel vehicles for Shannon Valley Plant Hire at Behan Quarry in Rathcoole, was knocked down by a digger in wet and dark conditions.

The court heard Shannon Valley did not have a safe system in place for refuelling vehicles outside of daylight hours, there was no traffic marshall on site and no designated area lit up for refuelling.

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Shannon Valley Plant Hire Ltd pleaded guilty to one count of failing to ensure the health, safety and welfare of individuals on their work site. Behan Aggregates and Recycling Limited, the operator of the quarry, pleaded guilty to one count of failing to ensure suitable operating procedures at the site.

Inspector Manus Tiernan of the Health and Safety Authority told Diana Stuart, prosecuting, that Mr Miley was employed by an oil supply company and had been refuelling vehicles at Behan Quarry for about two years prior to the accident.

The court heard that, on the day in question, the driver of a digger witnessed Mr Miley approaching in his lorry at about 6.40am, but assumed he was starting his work at another location. He was driving along when he felt a bump and realised he had knocked Mr Miley down.

Emergency services were alerted to the scene and Mr Miley was pronounced dead shortly after 7am.

Conditions on the morning were wet, dark and windy, with low visibility, the court heard. Gardaí had difficulty accessing the scene as it was so muddy.

Members of Mr Miley’s family, including his partner, Shelly Keating, were in court for the sentence hearing on Tuesday, along with the three directors of Shannon Valley Plant Hire – brothers Mick, David and Dermot English. A representative from Behan Aggregates was also present.

Passing sentence, Judge Martin Nolan said it seemed a “certain level of complacency” had set in on site, leading to Mr Miley being knocked down. “This shouldn’t have occurred,” the judge said.

“It was obvious what was happening to Mr Miley was unsafe. It’s obviously unsafe to have a man walking around in the dark on a site where there are vehicles in use.”

The judge said Shannon Valley had a responsibility to make sure the quarry site was safe. “There was no adequate lighting, there was no adequate plan in place to deal with the refuelling by Mr Miley,” he said.

Judge Nolan said he had no doubt the Shannon Valley directors were “conscientious people” and that they were devastated by the death of Mr Miley. But he said it seemed they were neglecting this particular site. He handed down a fine of €600,000 to be paid within six months. The court heard the maximum fine in such a case is €3 million.

In relation to Behan Aggregates and Recycling, the judge noted the company had a lower level of culpability. He handed down a fine of €50,000.

Remy Farrell SC, defending Shannon Valley Plant Hire, said the company directors were all in court to apologise to the family of Mr Miley. He said Shannon Valley now had a number of procedures in place following a risk assessment, including a refuelling plan.

Eoghan Cole SC, defending Behan Aggregates and Recycling, said the company’s relationship with Shannon Valley was terminated in the wake of the incident and the quarry was loss-making for a period afterwards. He said the company wished to extend its deepest sympathies to Mr Miley’s family, along with its regret in relation to what happened on its premises.

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