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    Corporate Manslaughter charge attracts nominal financial penalty

    Mobile Sweepers (Reading) Limited and its Director Mervyn Owens have been ordered (26 February) to pay fines and costs totalling £203,000 for safety failings relating to the death of a worker at the company’s premises at Headley in north Hampshire.

    Malcolm Hinton, 56, died on 6 March 2012 when the raised hopper of a road sweeper vehicle, in which rubbish and dirt from street sweeping was collected, fell on him during maintenance work.

    Investigation by Hampshire Police and HSE established that a prop designed to take the weight of the hopper when raised in ‘tipping’ position could not be used due to the poor condition of the vehicle.

    When loss of hydraulic pressure caused the hopper to fall back towards to the main chassis of the vehicle, there was nothing to stop it from crushing Mr Hinton as he worked underneath.

    Large ‘asset rich’ business would have taken heavy fine 

    Mobile Sweepers (Reading) Limited pleaded guilty to a charge under Section 1 of the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act (CMCH) 2007 at an earlier hearing on 2 December 2013. The company was today fined £8,000 and ordered to pay a further £4,000 in costs at Winchester Crown Court.

    The court heard that the fine imposed reflected the fact that the company ceased trading soon after the incident and had total assets of only £12,000. Nevertheless, a CMCH ‘Publicity Order’ was also issued requiring an agreed account of the company wrongdoing to be publicised in the press.

    Judge Boney commented that if the defendant company had been large and with considerable assets the penalty would have been at the upper end of a scale of between £500,000 to £1 million, adding the case:

    “presented as one of the most serious of its kind that the Court is ever likely to hear. The tragic death arose not because of poor systems inadequately implemented but because there were none.”

    Mervyn Owens, Director of Mobile Sweepers (Reading) Limited, pleaded guilty to a charge under Section 2 of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 at the same hearing on 2 December 2013. He wasfined £183,000 with £8,000 costs and disqualified from holding the position as a company director for five years.

    Further charges against both parties were left to lie on file.

    Casual and regular workers require equal protection

    Speaking after sentencing, HSE Principal Inspector Steve Hull, commented:

    “Malcolm Hinton’s tragic death was wholly avoidable had Mobile Sweepers (Reading) Limited and company director Mervyn Owens ensured that the raised hopper of the road sweeper vehicle, which weighed over half a tonne, was safely propped as he worked underneath.

    Planned, preventive maintenance procedures should be in place for all work vehicles to ensure they are kept in good condition. Parts fail less often when they are, and it negates the need for unplanned, often rushed, emergency repairs.

    Whenever someone has to work beneath a raised load, such as a tipper body, it is essential that propping arrangements are adequate to prevent devastating failures – as was the case here.

    HSE’s own records show that 22 fatalities have occurred over the past 10 years alone due to inadequate propping when working beneath vehicles or vehicle bodies.

    Employers should also reflect that it is just as important to ensure that there are adequate health and safety arrangements in place for casual workers, as was the status of Mr Hinton, as there are for regular employees.

    All workers deserve the same levels of heath and safety protection and the law makes no distinction between what employers need to provide for different categories of staff.”

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