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LIFTING OPERATION FATALITY CONFIRMS RISING FINES

Freight company pays £350,000 following death during unloading glass

Roadways Container Logistics Limited, of Stourton, West Midlands has pleaded guilty at Leeds Crown Court to a breach of HSW Section 2(1).

The company has been fined £250,000 and ordered to pay £100,000 in prosecution costs.

The court heard that on 6 April 2006 admin manager Alan Fletcher, two cargo handlers and a supervisor were present as cases of glass were being unloaded from an open top freight container.

Mr Fletcher was crushed when he tried to stop the final case (2 tonnes) falling as it was being lifted from the container.

Inadequate training, assessment and planning

Evidence was presented showing that Mr Fletcher (aged 59) and his colleagues had not received appropriate training in lifting operations.

In addition, a suitable risk assessment and formal planning was not carried leading to the case not being properly secured.

HSE Inspector Morag Irwin said the incident “ highlights the importance of having an effective system in place for managing health and safety generally and specifically when lifting heavy goods, and I hope it serves as a warning to other companies.

“In this case, the measures in place were grossly inadequate; there was a failure to carry out a risk assessment or formal planning, as well as a lack of training, all of which resulted in the tragic and unnecessary death of an employee that so easily could have been avoided.

Family statement

In a rare move HSE has published a statement by Jackie Fletcher, Alan Fletcher’s widow: “It’s four years since my husband lost his life at Roadways Container Logistics, and I’m relieved that today’s verdict finally allows some sentiment of closure. It ends a long, harrowing and incredibly frustrating legal process – a process that was seemingly hindered from day one by delays and bickering from the RCL team. Certain parties seem to have lost sight of why we’re here today. And that’s because a kind, loving man had his life cruelly ended in simply doing his job. That’s what’s important and no amount of punishment or recrimination will ever change that. My only hope now is that lessons have been learned, and that no-one else has to endure the heartache of losing a loved one in this way.” 

Comment

This tragic death occurred at the fixed premises of this logistics company. However, there have been a number of fatalities on construction projects during the last 12 months involving the off-loading of materials from vehicles.

There is  potential for significant harm from poorly managed lifting operations. All lifting operations must to be properly planned, supervised and carried out in a safe manner.

This case also demonstrates that the courts are implementing the Sentencing Council Guidelines which state that fines in health and safety prosecutions involving a death should start at £100k. 

This death pre-dates the Corporate Manslaughter Act 2007 under which the fines are expected to start at £500k. 

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