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Two companies fined after worker crushed to death

6 November 2017

A vehicle recovery company and a recovery vehicles manufacturer have been fined after a worker died of crush injuries.

Southwark Crown Court heard how, on 31 May 2013, John Wallace, an employee of Ontime Automotive Ltd, was jet washing a twin deck recovery vehicle at the company’s base in Hayes, Middlesex when the upper deck collapsed spontaneously, trapping him between the upper and lower deck. He died of his injuries at the scene.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found the vehicle recovery equipment was poorly designed by a company called J&J Conversions Ltd. The upper deck, which was designed to fold down onto the lower deck, was only stable in its raised position if it was secured by two powered locking pins. It was possible to lower the locking pins if a control was operated and another device (that was intended to detect the position of the upper deck) was incorrectly operated by hand. Correct design would have used a device that could not be operated by hand to detect the position of the upper deck. Ontime failed to control this unsafe practice, as a limited number of employees within the company knew how to operate this device.

J&J Conversions failed to take appropriate measures to remedy the problem even after the upper deck had violently collapsed on a previous occasion when the vehicle was owned by a third party.

J&J Conversions Ltd of St Peter Street, Winchester pleaded guilty to breaching Section 6(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and was fined £100,000 and ordered to pay full costs of £9,490.

Ontime Automotive Ltd of Waterside Drive, Langley was found guilty of breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and were fined £50,000 and ordered to pay costs of £50,000.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector Stephen Kirton said: “This was a tragic and wholly avoidable incident caused by poor design and the failure to control unsafe practices. “Any company designing, manufacturing or supplying equipment for use at work must ensure that its safe operation is correctly considered and engineered in, and that foreseeable issues are properly considered. Companies should also ensure that employees are correctly trained to use workplace machinery. Companies should be aware that HSE will not hesitate to take appropriate enforcement action against those that fall below the required standards.”
Notes to Editors:

  1. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is Britain’s national regulator for workplace health and safety. It helps Great Britain work well by applying a broad range of regulatory interventions and scientific expertise, to prevent 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.


  1. More about the legislation referred to in this case can be found at:


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