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Transport firm owner sentenced following mechanic’s death

Date:
15 October 2013

The owner of a Leicestershire transport company has been sentenced for safety failings after a mechanic was killed during a jacking operation.

Mark Wintersgill, 25, of Broughton Astley, Leicester, was attempting to jack up the axle of a double decker HGV trailer at PPR Transport Services in Lutterworth on 25 June 2012 when the jack separated from the axle and struck him. He died at the scene of catastrophic head injuries.

Business owner Paul Anthony Roberts, also of Lutterworth, was prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) after an investigation found the operation was poorly planned and managed.

Leicester Crown Court heard today (15 October) that Mr Wintersgill was attempting to jack the trailer on a set of concrete ramps, which meant the trailer’s landing legs were below the level of the rear axles. This may have encouraged the unit to rock forward when the jacking began.

The mechanic was using an air jack powered by a compressor and is thought to have put two wooden blocks on top of the jack to achieve a greater lifting height. Unfortunately, these may have further destabilised the equipment and separated, causing the jack to jump under the pressure of the load.

The court was told that Mr Wintersgill should not have been under a vehicle being lifted until it was fully supported by appropriate chassis or axle stands.

Mr Roberts was ultimately responsible for ensuring that work at the site was properly assessed and controlled, with suitable safety measures, training and equipment in place and available.

Paul Anthony Roberts, 51, of Lilac Drive, Lutterworth, was fined £12,000 with costs of £43,000 after pleading guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety of Work etc Act 1974 for failing to protect his employees.

After the hearing HSE inspector David Lefever said:

“This was a tragic incident that could have been prevented had a few basic precautions been taken.

“Mr Roberts should have ensured that this regular work activity was carried out in a safe location  on firm, level ground. He should also have ensured his employees were supplied with the correct equipment and that they were trained in how to use that equipment safely.

“He should have monitored how employees were carrying out this task and stopped the routine use of wooden blocks, which was a highly dangerous practice. He should also have ensured his employees followed a safe system of work.

“He failed to do any of that and as a result a young man paid with his life.”

Mr Wintersgill’s mother, Jeanine Erasmus said:

“For 25 years I had the privilege and honour of being Mark’s mother before he was so senselessly and cruelly taken from me.  I still have one amazing son, Craig, whom I love with all my heart, but there is emptiness inside me due to Mark’s death that will haunt me every day for the rest of my life.

“Mark was one in a million. He was kind, loving, happy, sincere, loyal, genuine, caring, hardworking and would help anyone out he could.  He had this presence when he walked into a room, the room would light up.  He had a cheeky smile and such a deep chuckle, and a twinkle in his blue eyes.

“Nobody should have to bury their 25-year-old son. No-one should feel needless pain and suffering.  Mark was an extraordinary son and human being who did not deserve this fate.”

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.”

 

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