Council and construction company fined following death of 24-year-old worker during Storm-Ali

Matt Campbell and his fiancee Robyn Newberry.Matt Campbell and his fiancee Robyn Newberry.
Matt Campbell and his fiancee Robyn Newberry.
Newry, Mourne and Down District Council, and Lagan Construction Limited, Belfast have been fined for breaches of health and safety legislation following the death of an electrical engineer in Slieve Gullion Forest Park.

It follows an investigation by the Health and Safety Executive for Northern Ireland (HSENI).

Matthew Campbell, who was 24-year-old, was struck by a falling tree when working at Slieve Gullion Forest Park, on September 19, 2018.

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Today at Newry Crown Court, Newry, Mourne and Down District Council was fined £20,000, and Lagan Construction Limited was fined £30,000. Both employers failed to make a suitable and sufficient risk assessment. The Council also failed to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the safety of non-employees.

Speaking after the hearing, Katrina Murphy, an HSENI Inspector said, “This tragic incident needlessly claimed the life of a young man who was working in an area populated with mature trees during a severe weather event.

“All employers need to assess the risk from the effect of potential storm conditions on their work activities and take necessary precautions.”

It was also established that both employers were in receipt of Met Office weather warnings advising of a strengthening storm with the potential to cause danger to life. Ms Murphy added: “Weather warnings should always be considered. They are important and are designed to let people know what the impacts may be of severe weather, including strong winds.”

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The investigation found that Mr Campbell, an employee of Lagan Construction Limited, was fatally injured when a large, 200-year-old beech tree was uprooted by strong winds during ‘Storm Ali' in September 2018. The beech tree fell on Matthew Campbell while he was working near to the entrance of the forest park which was under the management and control of the Council.

The ongoing work was part of a water mains rehabilitation project designed to improve water pressure in the forest park café and amenities. Mr Campbell’s line manager was also seriously injured by the falling tree.

PPS Senior Public Prosecutor Michael McDaid said: “This was a heartbreaking case with grave consequences as a young man tragically lost his life whilst at work.

“Prosecutors in the PPS’s Fraud & Departmental Section worked closely with the Health and Safety Executive for Northern Ireland (HSENI) to build a strong prosecution case, which resulted in the guilty pleas.

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“The PPS will continue to work with our enforcement partners to robustly prosecute alleged health and safety offences, where the Test for Prosecution is met. The conclusion of this case should send a clear message to the industry and employers to ensure they have stringent processes in place to ensure others are not exposed to risks to their health and safety and no other lives are tragically lost.

“We would like to thank all civilian witnesses who made statements that assisted the investigation and we commend Mr Campbell’s family for their dignity and patience throughout the proceedings.”