Home   Gravesend   News   Article

Highways Agency given Crown Censure by Health and Safety Executive after John Walmsley dies in M25 crash

The Highways Agency has been issued with a severe sanction for safety failings after an experienced traffic officer was struck and killed by a car that went out of control.

It was today issued with something called a Crown Censure – the equivalent of a criminal prosecution – by The Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

Grandfather John Walmsley, 59, of Doria Drive, Gravesend, died while dealing with an incident on the M25, between junctions 4 and 5 clockwise, on September 25, 2012.

'Irreplaceable' John Walmsley killed in M25 crash
'Irreplaceable' John Walmsley killed in M25 crash

He and a colleague had been called to help with a car that had spun around after heavy rain, and had ended up pointing in the wrong direction in a live lane on the motorway.

Mr Walmsley and his partner towed the vehicle to the hard shoulder and the pair, along with the car’s driver who was unhurt, were awaiting a recovery vehicle.

Mr Walmsley then walked down the hard shoulder, while using his phone, to keep his eye out for the truck when a second car went out of control on the same bend, skidded across the carriageway and hit him.

He died at the scene. The driver was subsequently convicted of causing death by careless driving.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE), which investigated, took the decision to deliver a Censure after identifying failures in the Highways Agency’s quarterly supervision checks at the Dartford outstation.

HSE found that despite the introduction in July 2011 by the Highways Agency of formal quarterly supervision checks of traffic officers by a team manager, none were carried out with Mr Walmsley between August 2011 and his death.

Colleagues formed a guard of honour
Colleagues formed a guard of honour

While the Highways Agency had in place other health and safety training and policies, including informal supervisory checks, more than half the traffic officers based at the Dartford depot had also not undergone any quarterly supervision checks.

HSE said the Highways Agency had not provided the necessary supervision to ensure, as far as reasonably practicable, the health and safety of its employees.

The censure was administered at Ashford council by HSE’s regional director (Southern Division) Tim Galloway and accepted by Simon Sheldon-Wilson, executive director of customer operations for the Highways Agency.

HSE inspector Guy Widdowson, who investigated, said: “Mr Walmsley, who had worked as a traffic officer for seven years, was killed because he was not standing behind the safety barrier when a car crashed on the motorway.

“If the Highways Agency had conducted the necessary supervisory checks between July 2011 and his death the following September, it may have ensured he followed the correct safety procedures and prevented him from working the way he did.”

After delivering the censure, Mr Galloway added: “Without proper supervision, companies have no way of knowing if their specified control measures are up to date and are being properly used. It is a vital step in controlling risks in the workplace.

A special floral tribute was created for John Walmsley
A special floral tribute was created for John Walmsley

“This is the case for staff who work for the Highways Agency, or indeed any other similar organisation out on the UK road network, just as much as it applies to those who work within a more traditional environment.”

The Highways Agency cannot face prosecution in the same way as non-government bodies. Crown Censures are agreed procedures applicable to Crown employers instead of criminal proceedings.

A Crown Censure is the maximum sanction for a government body that HSE can bring. There is no financial penalty associated with Crown Censure, but once accepted is an official record of a failing to meet the standards set out in law.

Just after his death, which happened two days before his 60th birthday, Mr Walmsley’s family paid tribute. A statement said: “John Walmsley, our dad, was a great dad, grandad and most importantly great husband, who is irreplaceable.

“He had the affection and respect of just about everyone he come in contact with, due to his honesty and kindness with/to them" - the family of John Walmsley

“He had the affection and respect of just about everyone he come in contact with, due to his honesty and kindness with/to them.

“He will be greatly missed by his family and all who knew him. xx”

Colleague Mark Sollis said at the time: “John will be sadly missed at Dartford station. He was a really nice guy doing a job he enjoyed, helping the public on the M25. A good friend and colleague.”

His funeral at Gravesend Methodist Church, Milton Road, Gravesend, was attended by many of his colleagues, including more than 170 patrol officers, and tributes included flowers in the shape of his Highways Agency vehicle.

Mr Walmsley was born in Gravesend, and baptised and married in the Methodist church. He left a wife, Brenda, son Lee and daughters Donna and Sarah.

Before joining the Highways Agency, he worked for 30 years at Denton Wharf in Gravesend.

Stories you might have missed

Man arrested after partner's body found under patio

Reckless driver jailed for killing 'much-loved' man

Security stepped up at ports after Paris terror attack

Bishop couldn't work miracle after driving charge

Close This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse the site you are agreeing to our use of cookies.Learn More