Family pay tribute to worker crushed to death at quarry as company fined

Luke Branston with his girlfriend (Family Handout/HSE/PA)
Luke Branston with his girlfriend (Family Handout/HSE/PA)

The parents of a worker who was crushed at a quarry have paid tribute to him after the company involved in his death was fined more than £1 million.

Luke Branston, 26, died in the early hours of June 21, 2017, while working on machinery at Mountsorrel Quarry in Leicestershire.

|He was repairing a feed hopper at the quarry operated by Tarmac Aggregates Limited, part of Tarmac, when the conveyor he was standing on was “inadvertently switched on”, causing him to become trapped, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) said.

The company was fined £1,275,000 at Leicester Crown Court on Wednesday, after pleading guilty to two health and safety offences.

In a statement to the court, Mr Branston’s father, Kevin Branston, said: “We had to sell Luke’s house to help with money pressure. The loss of Luke’s house hurt a lot, it was as if I was losing a memory.

Luke Branston
Luke Branston enjoyed stock car racing, his family said (Family Handout/HSE/PA)

“Luke was the youngest child of my four children. Luke is like a missing link in my life – at work and more, as we loved going stock car racing as a family every weekend.

“Luke’s racing took him all over the country. Every bit of spare time he had was spent in the workshop fixing his cars with his brother Micky.

“I go in the workshop now and find myself just sitting there getting upset looking at his race car, thinking why him?

“Sometimes I feel guilty for still being here when Luke’s not. I miss him all the time.”

His mother, Sharon Branston, said: “I feel this has made us an emotional family, having guilty feelings for being happy. We are still here and he is not.

Quarry death
The HSE said it found several issues during its investigation at the quarry (HSE/PA)

“Six years on I still have hard days and cry over silly things. I still have Luke’s ashes at home as I can’t bear the thought of leaving him.

“Every day I think about Luke and wish he was here still, but I only have memories and photos, that’s all we have left.”

The HSE said that Mr Branston, from Ratcliffe on the Wreake in Leicestershire, was working as a contractor on behalf of Branston Site Services Limited to repair the feed hopper.

He stood on a conveyor beneath the hopper, which had not been isolated by cutting the power, before he began making repairs.

The conveyor was then turned on, trapping Mr Branston against the hopper and fatally crushing him.

An investigation found that Tarmac Aggregates Ltd had failed to ensure the feed hopper had been isolated, and that the conveyor’s test button was inoperative.

The HSE said: “This issue appears to have existed for many years before the incident, meaning Tarmac Aggregates Ltd failed to ensure critical defects were recorded and rectified in a timely manner.”

There was also no visual or audible pre-start alarm for the conveyer, the HSE said.

The company, of Trinity Park, Bickenhill Lane, Birmingham, pleaded guilty to failing to ensure it had protected workers from risks under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.

Judge Gregory Dickinson KC ordered the firm to pay the fine, £200,000 in costs and a £170 victim surcharge within 56 days.

HSE inspector Adrian Jurg said: “This is a devastating tragedy that claimed the life of a young man.

“Luke’s family have made clear the impact his passing has had on their lives and our thoughts remain with them.

“When a company like Tarmac profits from the hard work of contractors like Luke then the very least they owe him and his family is a duty to ensure he gets home safe at the end of his shift.

“Companies should be aware that HSE will not hesitate to take appropriate enforcement action against those that fall below the required standards.”

Tarmac Aggregates Ltd has been approached for comment.