A series of safety breaches have been identified as contributing factors to the death of a track marshal during this year’s Canadian Grand Prix, for which event organisers will be fined a minimum of CA$60,000.
Track marshal Mark Robinson was killed in the minutes following the chequered flag at the Circuit de Gilles Villeneuve, tripping and falling under wheels of a mobile crane which was being used to ferry the damaged Sauber of Esteban Gutiérrez off the circuit.
His death was the first to occur at a Grand Prix since trackside marshal Graham Beveridge was killed at the Australian Grand Prix in 2001, when he was struck by a wheel that pierced the trackside safety fencing.
Montreal circuit officials immediately moved to suspend the use of mobile crane recovery vehicles at all subsequent motorsport events at the circuit.
A lengthy investigation by Quebec’s chief workplace safety body, the CSST, has found that the 38-year-old’s death was triggered by a number of safety errors, which included:
The crane was moving too quickly at 11km/h – a speed equivalent to jogging pace – which made it more difficult for track workers to take evasive action in the event of a potential incident;
Gutiérrez’s Sauber was suspended too high off the ground, at a height of up to two metres, limiting visibility of the track workers and crane operator;
While Robinson and a colleague were in front of the forklift (being there was stabilise the Sauber while was tethered in the air) – the safety body ruled that they were in too close a proximity;
The means of stabilising the Sauber (with tethers on its rear corners) while being transported was found to be a risky practice; and
Those recovering the car had not been adequately trained to do so.
In addition to making a number of recommendations on the training and recovery practices being used by circuit workers – all of which will be adopted for future Canadian Grands Prix – the CSST report has also recommended that spectators be prevented from immediately venturing onto the circuit after the chequered flag is thrown.
This was also deemed a factor in Robinson’s death, with track marshals perhaps being too hasty to remove Gutiérrez’s Sauber – which had a late-race accident at Turn 2 – in order to protect it from spectators wanting to head to the start/finish straight for the post-race celebrations.
Let’s hope that other circuits will adopt similar measures – if they haven’t already done so – to afford better protection to these volunteers.