Two companies in the group found to have breached safety laws after separate site accidents

Two companies in the JCB group have been fined more than £450,000 following the death of two workers in separate incidents.

JCB Earthmovers Ltd was fined £200,000 and ordered to pay costs of £31,366 following the death of Darren Ellis, aged 33, at its manufacturing plant in Cheadle, Staffordshire, in 2005.

JC Bamford Excavators Ltd was fined £266,000 and ordered to pay costs of £31,701 following the death of Paul McNamara, aged 43, on the company's site at Rocester, Staffordshire, in 2006.

Welder Ellis was testing the fuel tank of an earth-moving machine for leaks when the inspection plate blew off after he connected a high-pressure instead of low-pressure airline. He sustained fatal head injuries. At an earlier hearing, magistrates were told that the airlines looked similar and Ellis did not have enough training for the job.

McNamara was crushed by the boom of an excavating machine, known as a backhoe loader, and suffered fatal head injuries. An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that it was common practice for workers to operate the controls while standing outside the cab of the machine and leaning through the back window. A fault on the hydraulic system resulted in the control leaver failing to work properly, causing the boom to carry on moving.

The HSE said that it had previously issued warnings about separating pedestrians from vehicles at other sites in the Easco Group.

Lynne Boulton, an inspector with the HSE, said: “Both these tragic deaths were not only regrettable but also entirely preventable. Mr Ellis and Mr McNamara have each left behind two children and grieving widows who have our deepest sympathies and our thoughts go with them for their futures. All employers must learn from these tragedies that, whatever the task, it is crucial to undertake a suitable risk assessment that deals with the significant risks of that task.”

The companies both breached section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. The cases were heard at Stafford crown court on 14 March. Both companies had pleaded guilty at earlier court hearings.