A Mayo company has been fined €500,000 following a fatal workplace accident at one of its quarries in 2015. Harrington Concrete and Quarries ULC pleaded guilty to three breaches of health-and-safety legislation. It appeared before Castlebar Circuit Criminal Court on Wednesday last, where Judge Rory McCabe imposed the fine.
Joseph Harrington of Sonnagh, Charlestown, was an employee of (and no relation to the owners of) Harrington Concrete and Quarries when he was killed instantly after falling into a stone crusher at Aghamore, Ballyhaunis, on June 11, 2015.
The facts were heard in court last October, when the company pleaded guilty. Then, Judge McCabe said that Joseph Harrington’s death could easily have been avoided.
The company pleaded guilty failing to ensure safe plant and machinery, particularly no sufficient edge protection/barrier to the crusher and the area around it resulting in the death of Joseph Harrington. It also pleaded guilty to failing to ensure a safe system of work was in place for the unblocking of the crusher and failuring to ensure the safety statement contained safe operating procedures and instructions for the operation of the crusher.
In October, Michael O’Connor, counsel for Harrington Concrete and Quarries, said that the company apologised to the family of the deceased and wanted them to know that lessons have been learned. He said that since the tragedy, the company has invested in the region of €500,000 to ensure that a similar tragedy could not happen again.
In a victim-impact statement, Hazel McCann, girlfriend of the deceased, said her life has been ruined by Joseph’s death.
Helena Harrington, a sister of the deceased, said the hole that her brother’s death had left in their family was irreparable. She was also critical of social media for carrying details of what happened on the day the tragedy occurred before the family had been informed of their loss.
Last Wednesday, Judge McCabe said that he accepted the remorse of the company and its ‘considerable efforts to carry out remedial work’ in what he described as a ‘dangerous operation’.
He said that while the starting point for a fine was €1 million, a number of factors mitigated that downwards in this case. He said he had carefully reviewed the financial position of Harrington Concrete and Quarries. He also said that the fine had to be proportional to the wrongdoing.
He added that the purpose of sentencing is to mark the gravity of the wrongdoing, to send out a warning that such health and safety breaches in the workplace have to be punished and to rehabilitate, which he said the company has taken steps to do.
He imposed the fine of €500,000, and he also ordered that costs of €7,690.33 be paid to the Health and Safety Authority and the Director of Public Prosecutions.
Michael O’Connor, counsel for Harrington Concrete and Quarries, asked Judge McCabe if the company could be given time to pay the fine over a number of years. Judge McCabe said no, and ordered the fine to be paid within six months.
The court also heard that a civil case is ongoing.