In one incident, an overhead cable that Kier workers brought down hit a lorry. The second time, a cable landed on the motorway.
An investigation by the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) found that after the first incident Kier failed to immediately tell the network provider Scottish Power what had happened.
Both incidents happened on overnight road works as part of the M6 smart motorway scheme between junctions 16 and 18 near Sandbach in Cheshire.
During the first incident (seen in the short video clip below), a team of three from Kier was working a nightshift on 28th March 2018. The workers were clearing tarmac from the hard shoulder and loading a truck with a digger. As they moved the truck along with an attached loading bucket raised, it struck and severed a 11kV overhead power line that landed in the motorway and in a nearby field. The company failed to immediately tell Scottish Power, which meant the cable was reenergised several times while it was lying on the motorway and vehicles were passing.
During the second incident, another Kier team was taking down a motorway barrier on 21st January 2019. The HSE reports that a crane (presumably a lorry loader) struck an overhead cable, leading to an unmarked 11kV powerline being hit and snapped by an oncoming lorry.
HSE found that inadequate planning from Kier meant the selected vehicle in the first incident was unsuitable despite other more suitable vehicles being available. There was also no task-specific risk assessment available for the workers.
In the second incident, the workers were simply unaware of the overhead hazards.
In relation to the first incident, Kier Infrastructure & Overseas Limited, of Clippers Quay, Salford pleaded guilty to breaching Sections 2(1) and 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974. In relation to the second incident, it pleaded guilty to breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 and Regulation 13(1) of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015.
In total, the company was fined £4.415m and ordered to pay costs of £80,759.60 at Manchester Crown Court on 12th January 2023.
This is only the second time an HSE prosecution has resulted in fine of nore than £4m where nobody was injured, the HSE said, adding that this highlights the significance of Kier’s safety breaches.
HSE inspector Mike Lisle said: “This is a significant fine reflecting the seriousness of the failures here. The company’s failure to plan the work properly and provide an adequate risk assessment put its workers and those using the motorway in significant danger.”