£1.8m fine after Merseyside worker fatally injured tipping 30 tonnes of brown rice

A company that owns and operates ports across the United Kingdom was fined £1.8m after a driver suffered fatal injuries whilst tipping 30 tonnes of brown rice from a vehicle.

Liverpool Crown Court heard that on 25 October 2015, Mr John Burns, an employee of Hooper Transport, along with three other drivers with cargo, were transporting rice from a container ship to a storage shed at Garston dock, Liverpool. When his vehicle did not exit the shed, a search was undertaken whereby the vehicle tipper was found at full height and the load deposited. Mr Burns was subsequently found underneath the 30 tonnes of rice having suffered significant leg injuries, blunt force chest injuries, and mechanical asphyxia.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found Associated British Ports Holdings Ltd had failed in their duty to carry out a suitable and sufficient risk assessment which correctly identified the risks associated with the stockpile, and put in place appropriate control measures, including failure to maintain the hold to run actuator, which would have prevented drivers exiting their vehicles and therefore out of the way of the tipping load, and to adequately supervise and monitor the tipping process.

Associated British Ports Holdings Ltd of Aldwych House, Aldwych, London pleaded guilty to breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974. The company was fined £1.8 million and ordered to pay costs of £31,694.42.

Following this investigation, a case against another defendant is next due to be heard at Liverpool Magistrates’ Court on 6 June 2022.

HSE inspector Bradley Wigglesworth said: “This was a horrific incident, and our thoughts remain with Mr Burns’ family. Those in control of the work have a responsibility to devise safe methods of working, adequately supervise and monitor work activity and provide the necessary information and instruction to workers in safe systems of working.

“If a suitable safe system of work had been in place prior to the incident, then this tragic incident could have been prevented. 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. We prevent work-related death, injury and ill health through regulatory actions that range from influencing behaviours across whole industry sectors through to targeted interventions on individual businesses. These activities are supported by globally recognised scientific expertise. www.hse.gov.uk

2. More about the legislation referred to in this case can be found at:
Planning for health and safety (hse.gov.uk)

3. HSE news releases are available at http://press.hse.gov.uk