Evidence of Health and Safety Inspector Chris Barringer
P: You have been a Health and Safety Inspector since 1991?
P: You have been responsible for docks and Harbours in South East England since 1995 covering the coast of Kent and as far as Chichester?
P: You have a BSc in biochemistry, a postgraduate diploma in Health and Safety and have been on lots of training courses while working at the HSE?
P: You have dealt with a large number of accidents?
P: On 24 April 1998, you were in your office when you heard of an incident?
P: So you drove quickly to Euromin?
CB: I did.
P: The police and emergency services were there?
CB: There was a number of emergency vehicles there.
P: You saw Simon Jones in the hold with the grab?
P: Refer to photographs under tab 4; there are 18 photos. Are these yours?
P: Were you aware that the scenes of crime officer had taken photos?
P: In photographs 15 to 18 you can see the full length of chains detached from the arm of the excavator?
P: Photo 15 shows a tape measure; is it yours?
P: According to your note book, what was the length of the chain?
CB: 1.8metres from the large ring at the top to the middle of the hook at the end of the chain.
P: What was the extra length of the 2 rings?
CB: About 10 cm.
P: So the absolute overall length was 1.9 metres?
P: Was the scene as in photo 21?
CB: Yes that was very much as I saw it.
P: To go closer did you have to walk on aggregate or bags?
CB: On bags of stones.
P: Was the surface of the bags even or uneven.
P: Was the weather dry?
CB: It was raining.
P: Was it easy to maintain your footing?
CB: No, it was slippery.
P: What footwear did you have on?
CB: HSE safety shoes with non-slip soles.
P: Was there any work going on?
CB: Aggregate was being unloaded using the conveyer system.
P: Was it noisy?
CB: Yes, very noisy and there were a lot of echoes.
P: Was the engine of the Liebherr excavator going?
P: Were you concerned to speak to someone in overall charge?
P: Did you ask to speak to whoever was in charge of the site?
CB: The people on site were taking some control, but there didn’t seem to be anyone in charge at the site.
J: Can you clarify that?
CB: There was nobody in overall charge of the site or of the unloading operation.
P: Were lorries arriving and leaving?
P: Who arranged for operations to stop to remove the body?
CB: I coordinated that.
P: Did you go back on 25th April to inspect the excavator?
P: Were others there including an engineer and a surveyor from the insurance company?
P: You made a visual and working inspection of the excavator?
P: Did Jim Harris operate the machine?
CB: He did.
P: Did you see him operate the controls in the cab?
P: Were you in the cab?
CB: I was in the doorway.
P: Did the operations include using the joystick to operate the grab?
P: How sensitive was the joystick?
CB: Extremely, finger touch control.
P: Did you see the grab close?
P: Was there any special noise when the grab closed?
CB: It was remarkably quiet; there was no additional noise.
P: Did it close quickly?
CB: In about a second.
P: What is the reason for the sensitive controls?
CB: It is for the benefit of the operator, to avoid strain and stress.
P: On 29th April, did you go back with Dr. Hinks, an HSE specialist inspector and Chris Ingrams, a service engineer from Liebherr?
Did you inspect the excavator?
CB: Dr. Hinks and Mr Ingrams inspected it; I was not active.
P: On 30th of April, did you see Mr Martell?
P: Was this the first time you’d seen him?
CB: Yes, the first time since the incident.
P: Did you obtain documents from Mr Martell?
P: Were you given a two page Health and Safety policy statement dated 23 May 1997 and signed by Mr Martell?
P: Were you given Mr Hutchinson’s report of February 1997?
P: Were you given a safety notice re head protection dated May 1997?
CB: Yes; “All staff engaged on the dock are expected to wear hard hats”.
P: Did you issue prohibition notices to Euromin regarding the use of the Liebherr?
CB: Yes. the HSE can issue these, if there is immediate danger, prohibiting certain practises.
P: Were these notices signed by you and dated 5 May 1998?
P: Did one of the notices forbid the operation of the Liebherr 984 excavator with chains within the grab?
CB: Yes. I served this notice on Euromin.
P: The reason for this notice was that the Liebherr 984 had not been so adapted to be suitable for the purpose for which it is being used?
P: Did you serve a second prohibition notice the same day; prohibiting the use of the excavator in an area where other persons might be at risk?
P: This was because the sensitivity of the Liebherr 984 controls was such that there was a foreseeable risk of the grab opening or closing?
P: This was in breach of the Docks Regulations 1988, regulation 5?
P: This was not to be done any more by Euromin?
P: This is a separate risk from what happened to Simon Jones?
P: Did you specify what the company had to do to comply with the notices?
P: Did you serve a third document that day; an improvement notice?
P: This stated that Euromin were contravening the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, section 2(2), in that Euromin as an employer were not providing such information, instruction, training and supervision as was necessary to ensure, as far as was reasonably practicable, the Health and Safety at work of employees?
P: You required Euromin to remedy this by 10th June 1998?
P: They were required to provide proper induction and training for all permanent staff and casuals?
P: Did you carry out inspections and take statements from many people over the next few months?
P: You tracked down the Cambrook in Gravesend and interviewed the captain Mr Chichomski?
P: On 3rd August 1999, did you go to Euromin with a Mr Sandies with a view to videoing the Liebherr 984 in action?
P: Who drove the excavator?
CB: Jim Harris.
P: This was not an attempt to reconstruct the events of 24th April 1998; it was to show the excavator in normal use?
CB: Yes, normal use.
P: Have you ever seen an arrangement for lifting involving hooks on the stem of a clam shell grab?
P: If you were asked in advance about such a system, what would you say?
CB: It is not a safe system of work in general.
P: Is there an internationally agreed system of signalling by banksmen?
CB: I am not aware of any single international code.
P: Are there British Standard signals?
CB: There are.
P: When you were visiting Euromin, did anyone draw your attention to the stop valve on the excavator?
P: Did anyone mention this valve?
P: In photos 8 and 9 we can see rails above the deck for the conveyor belt. Does the belt system overhang or is it just parallel to the side of the hold?
CB: It overhangs the side of the hold.
D: Refer to page 142; did you make that witness statement dated 8 March 2001?
CB: Yes I made it to the police.
D: That was nearly 3 years after the event was it not?
D: Why the delay?
CB: It was the first time I had been asked by the police to make a statement as part of their investigation.
D: What did you have to refresh your memory?
CB: Just my notes; I had no documentation to refer to.
D: We have statements dated 8 March, 15 March and 30 March. How could you remember the details?
CB: There had been discussions of the case and I had gone through my own records.
D: Some of this information came from your own records?
CB: Yes, from the Health and Safety Investigation.
D: You were maybe recollecting for the first time. It says on page 143 that Jim Harris demonstrated the controls to you. When you made this statement about the joystick on the right – see page 154 – your recollection is that the operator moves the stick towards him to open the grab. Do you agree that that is wrong?
D: Your recollection was based on what?
CB: At the time of the statement, recollection from 3 years before.
D: Did you know that the joystick was spring loaded?
CB: I could not comment on that.
D: Under tab 4, photograph 18 – your measurement of 1.8 metres for the chains is from where to where?
CB: That was the length of the chains as they were in use.
D: They measured 2.44 metres unshortened?
J: On photograph 15 – there is a tape by the top set of chains.
CB: There were two sets of chains; the tape measure was moved between photographs 15 and 16. I measured from the mid point of the inside of the hook up to the top of the chains.
D: To get the full length of the drop you need to add on the length of the two rings; how long would they be?
CB: The medium sized rings attached to the single ring – approximately 10 centimetres.
D: It looks more than that.
CB: I said approximately; I didn’t measure it at the time.
D: Mr Martell and Euromin had not previously been convicted of Health and Safety offences?
CB: Not as far as I am aware.
D: You had not served statutory notices before on Euromin?
Are fatal accidents usually caused by human or mechanical error?
CB: It depends on the circumstances.
D: You said there appeared to be no one in charge. Was it not obvious that Roger Grant was in charge?
CB: There was a certain amount of control but there was no overall control of the unloading action or of the site in general.
D: When you arrived the unloading of bags by Euromin had stopped?
CB: Yes but aggregate was still being moved in the yard.
D: With regard to the discharging of the cargo, I suggest that Roger Grant was in charge of this.
CB: No I’m sorry; he wasn’t.
D: Did you speak to Mr Harris soon after you arrived?
D: Did he deny touching the levers?
CB: I asked in general terms what had happened. He was unaware of anything that he had done.
Did he deny touching the levers?
CB: He was in a state of shock; he described the operation; he wasn’t aware that he had done anything to cause the grab to close.
Did he say his hands were in the air?
CB: We didn’t discuss that in detail then.
D: Was he always insistent later that he never touched the joystick?
CB: He was, yes.
D: There is a training record for each employee?
CB: For a number of employees.
D: There have been training and safety awareness courses?
CB: A number of courses.
D: You took statements from Harris in May 1998 and from Grant; how many statements did you take?
CB: I think two.
D: You interviewed Stallard; he gave you some notes and he made statements?
D: On the first occasion, when you arrived, the automatic discharge was going on and you stopped it?
CB: Yes at a certain stage.
D: You understood there was a perceived risk of grounding?
D: Mechanical failure of the excavator was eliminated?
CB: This was referred to a specialist; there was no failure.
D: Was the Liebherr well maintained?
Simon Jones had a hard hat, which was found in the mess room?
CB: So I understand.
D: You were not aware of the existence of a shut off valve on the Liebherr?
D: With reference to the shut off valves: “There was no system in place for disconnecting this valve system”, what does that mean?
CB: The valve system was intended to make disconnecting the hoses easier; it was not intended as a safety device.
D: Harris had recently been assessed as a competent excavator operator?
P: When you made your statement to the police you were able to refer to previous documents that you had written – your notebook from 24th April 1998 and you had previously been obliged to prepare a detailed report extending to 17 pages?
P: You visited Euromin on 7th July 1999 and watched Jim Harris operating the Liebherr 984 and made a video. Were the joysticks marked with directions?
CB: There were no obvious markings; I had to ask Jim Harris for directions.
P: Should there be obvious markings?
CB: Yes there should.
P: Were the chains seized, or were they left at Euromin for continued use?
CB: They were subject to notices.
P: They have since been destroyed?
P: We now have the original of photograph 18; can you see the tape measure more clearly?
P: Is there any reason to change your estimate of approximately 10 centimetres for the length of each ring?
CB: I’d say now that the rings are slightly more than 10 centimetres; probably 11 or 12 cm.
D: At the top are they slightly larger?
J: The stop valves could be used a) when changing the grab to stop oil loss or B) to cut off the hydraulics so the grab could not open or close. What’s wrong with doing that?
CB: In my discussions with Harris and Grant it was apparent that they were not aware of the lock off system.
P: In your report of 7th July 1999, was there any change in the evidence? No one mentioned shut off valves on this occasion?