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Firm sentenced after worker is killed by runaway lorry

Date:
24 April 2013

Two companies were today (24 April) ordered to pay a total of £794,658 in fines and costs after a driver was run over and killed by his own lorry.

Father-of-three Gary Walters, 51, was working for Gloucester-based contract haulier Larkins Logistics Ltd when the fatal incident occurred on 11 October 2010.

He was collecting a trailer loaded with structural concrete products from Bison Manufacturing Ltd in William Nadine Way, Swadlincote, Derbyshire. He failed to apply the brake in his cab and, because Bison’s drivers had not applied the brake to the trailer, the vehicle moved off as he was coupling the two parts together.

Mr Walters, of The Street, Crowmarsh, Oxfordshire, is believed to have gone round the front of the vehicle, possibly in an attempt to get into the cab and apply the brakes, but he was struck by the cab and run over. He died of multiple injuries.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that drivers working for Bison did not routinely apply the trailer brakes to ensure the units were safely parked. Following Mr Walters’ death, a police vehicle examiner examined ten other trailers at the site but none had the brakes applied, and no other manual system of restraint, such as chocks or hooks, was in place.

Derby Crown Court heard that there had been a number of other instances of lorries rolling away and Larkins’ drivers had not been properly trained to assess the use of trailer brakes in the yard.

Both companies had identified the risk to workers, but had failed to implement appropriate control measures. Their method of working ignored published safety guidance, which meant that drivers and other employees were all at risk.

Following a trial on 8 and 9 April 2013 Larkins Logistics Ltd, of Dobbs Hill Farm, Staunton, Gloucester, was found guilty of breaching Sections 2(1) and 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and was today (24 April) fined £350,000 for the Section 2(1) offence, £100,000 for the Section 3(1) offence and ordered to pay full costs of £23,317.

Bison Manufacturing Ltd, of Bridge Place, Anchor Boulevard, Admirals Park, Crossways, Dartford, Kent, admitted the same charges and was fined £233,000 for the Section 2(1) offence, £67,000 for the Section 3(1) offence and ordered to pay full costs of £21,341.

After the hearing HSE inspector Judith McNulty-Green said:

"This was not an isolated incident – sadly there are deaths and serious injuries to drivers every year in similar circumstances. It happened out of poor practice and was entirely preventable.

"Bison Manufacturing Ltd failed to implement a safe system of work for the storage of trailers with the brakes applied. They and Larkins Logistics Ltd also failed to implement and monitor working procedures for coupling and uncoupling trailers in the yard, and they failed to do it despite previous incidents.

"Had they done so they would have realised trailer brakes were routinely not being applied, taken appropriate action and a man would not have lost his life so needlessly."

Mr Walters had three children with his wife Vanessa – James, who was 19 at the time of the incident, Joanna, 15, and Tanya, 13.

Mrs Walters said:

"I hope that people learn from this tragedy and that today’s prosecution will go some way to changing the way people in the same industry work. I do not want this to happen to another family.

"Telling our children their dad had died was the worst experience of my life. I felt so helpless that they were hurting and that there was nothing I could do to make it better. As a parent you want to protect your children at whatever cost.

"James is 21 now and starting his own family. It’s sad that Gary never got to see his first grandchild. When the girls get married it won’t be a traditional wedding as their dad won’t be there to give them away. Gary will be missing from all the family portraits. There will never be a full picture again."

Notes to editors

  1. The Health and Safety Executive is Britain’s national regulator for workplace health and safety. It aims to reduce work-related death, injury and ill health. It does so through research, information and advice; promoting training; new or revised regulations and codes of practice; and working with local authority partners by inspection, investigation and enforcement. www.hse.gov.uk
  2. Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 states: "It shall be the duty of every employer to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of all his employees."
  3. Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 states: "It shall be the duty of every employer to conduct his undertaking in such a way as to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that persons not in his employment who may be affected thereby are not thereby exposed to risks to their health or safety."

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