Death of worker killed by reversing lorry 'could have been avoided'

Keith Johnston, 52, could not hear the approaching vehicle over ear defenders and the sound of a leaf blower.

Orkney council road worker killed in lorry crash could not hear vehicle reversing, investigation finds Google Maps

The death of a council worker who was struck by a reversing lorry while using a leaf blower and ear defenders could have “realistically been avoided”, an investigation has found.

Keith Johnston was fatally injured by the tipper lorry on the A967 in Orkney shortly after 10am on June 28, 2017.

At the time of the accident, the 52-year-old was blowing loose stone chips on to the resurfaced carriageway with the machinery and did not hear the lorry approaching him over ear muffs and the noise from the tool.

The Orkney Council worker previously been advised not to carry out the task behind the resurfacing operation, a Fatal Accident Inquiry (FAI) found.

Sheriff Gerard Sinclair said: “Mr Johnston’s tragic death occurred because, for whatever reason, he chose to leave the junction at Twatt Kirk and start clearing the loose chips on the road behind where the train was operating without telling anyone of his plans.

“No one knew that he was working on the road. Because he was wearing ear defenders he would not have heard vehicles approaching him.”

The sheriff also noted that the lorry driver failed to provide a reasonable explanation for how he failed to see the council road worker as he reversed.

He had not expected anyone to be working on the road when he slowly reversed, using his mirrors and hind camera.

The sheriff, after seeing all of the productions and evidence, said it was “inexplicable” how he failed to see Mr Johnson before he was struck.

Mr Johnston had been with the council for 24 years, and was regarded as a “very reliable employee, conscientious about his work, very experienced and knowledgeable about the job and with a good work record”.

Sheriff Sinclair said the council had responded appropriately to his death “by investigating and addressing the defects in the system of working in place at the time of the accident”, and made no further recommendations.

Finally, he addressed the Johnston family, saying: “I wish to record my appreciation for the way that Mrs Johnston, the wife of the deceased, and other family members who were in attendance throughout the inquiry, dealt with what was obviously some difficult and distressing evidence with such quiet dignity.

“I would like to finally add my own sincere condolences to the family for their tragic loss.

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