In a solemn ruling that underscores the critical importance of workplace safety, Newport City Council has been fined a substantial £2 million following the tragic death of a worker during road repair works. Stephen Bell, aged 57, lost his life in a heartrending incident while working beneath the M4 motorway on Langstone Court Road, a grim reminder of the hazards faced by workers in high-risk environments.
The incident, which took place in July 2019, occurred when Mr. Bell was engaged in resurfacing work, a routine yet perilous task. Tragically, while he was barrowing tarmac from a council tipper lorry, a passing farm vehicle struck him, leading to fatal consequences. This incident not only claimed Mr. Bell’s life but also left an irreplaceable void in the lives of his family. His wife, Jenny Bell, poignantly described the sudden loss as one that has “left us all heartbroken.”
Stephen Bell was remembered fondly by his bereaved family as a kind, caring, and hardworking individual with an infectious smile and a contagious sense of humour. The emotional weight of this serious workplace tragedy was further felt when Mrs. Bell recounted their youngest daughter’s recent wedding, where the absence of her father to walk her down the aisle was deeply felt.
In the wake of this incident, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) conducted a thorough investigation. The findings were stark; Newport City Council had not taken all reasonably practicable steps to ensure a safe working environment. This negligence in adhering to safety protocols and ensuring the wellbeing of its workers led to the substantial fine and an order to pay costs amounting to £9,780.
The aftermath of this incident has been a period of reflection and change for Newport City Council. Chief Executive Beverly Owen expressed deep remorse over the incident, acknowledging Mr. Bell as a “respected and valued colleague” and extending condolences to his family. In response to this tragic event, the council has undertaken significant measures to overhaul its health and safety procedures. This includes increasing resources dedicated to safety, strengthening existing procedures, and introducing additional training to prevent a recurrence of such an incident.
While Newport City Council has taken steps to learn from this tragedy, Mrs. Bell’s words resonate with a profound truth: no amount of justice or reformation can compensate for the loss of a loved one. Her call to action, to ensure that no other family experiences a similar tragedy, is a powerful reminder of the responsibility employers have to safeguard their workers.
The Workers Union Says…
“This incident serves as a sobering illustration of the vital importance of stringent health and safety measures in the workplace, particularly in dangerous high-risk environments. Employers must prioritize the safety and wellbeing of their workers, not just as a legal obligation, but as a moral imperative. The fine imposed on Newport City Council is not just a penalty but a signal to all employers about the serious consequences of neglecting workplace safety.”