Two companies were fined a total of £815,000 after a worker and father-to-be was crushed to death in Lancashire by a refuse collection vehicle.
Veolia ES Sheffield Limited (Veolia) and John Fowler and Son (Blacksmiths and Welders) Limited (JFS) both pleaded guilty and were sentenced at Preston Crown Court, after an investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). The court heard that, on 17 May 2014, during a refurbishment task at JFS in Chorley, an operative using the controls within the RCV’s cab closed the tailgate on Rick Calsen who was at the rear of the vehicle, fatally crushing him to death.
The RCV was supplied with in-cab controls for raising and lowering the tailgate. The system was designed such that it should not have been possible to completely close the tailgate using the in-cab controls, with a minimum gap of 1m being left between the bottom edges of the body and the tailgate. Examinations revealed a fault with the safety limit switch – it was found to be jammed in the actuated position resulting in it being possible to completely close the tailgate using the in-cab controls.
The HSE investigation found the fatal injury occurred due to a poor system of work at JFS, derived from a lack of a suitable and sufficient assessment of the risks, including failure to prop the tailgate adequately. In addition, Veolia failed in its inspection regime, which did not systematically review the functionality of the 1m safety limit switch (a designated safety function) on relevant RCVs. Had the fault with the 1m safety limit switch been identified and rectified at Veolia, the poor system of work employed at JFS would have been unable to result in the closure of the tailgate causing the entrapment of the worker.
HSE inspector Rohan Lye said after the hearing: “This tragic incident was entirely preventable. “It is important for organisations to maintain safety critical devices so they function correctly. Additionally, if a company utilises a system of work which does not rely on the effectiveness of that safety device, but then employs a contractor to work on the machine, there should be an effectively communicated handover so both are aware of any limitations and how the machine could function.
“Veolia’s failure to include the functionality of a manufacturer-stated safety critical device on its RCVs in its maintenance regimes resulted in an inability to relay information to any third party about its presence and condition. Therefore it exposed non-employees to unnecessary risk and ultimately contributed to this appalling loss of life.
“Similarly, JFS’s failure to implement a safe system of work for the maintenance of the RCV meant that any of its employees were exposed to the same risk. The lack of an adequate assessment of the risks of working around RCVs enabled the hazard of the non-functioning switch to materialize in the worst possible manner. “As a result of the failings on behalf of both duty-holders, Rick Calsen, a young man and father-to-be lost his life whilst going about his work.”
Veolia ES Sheffield Limited of Pentonville Road, London, was found guilty of breaching Regulation 6(2) of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 and Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 and was fined £750,000 with £11,981 costs.
John Fowler and Son (Blacksmiths and Welders) Limited, of Bexley Square, Salford, Manchester, was found guilty of breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 and was fined £65,000 with £12,443 costs.
Phoenix comment “Workplace transport equipment is responsible for many injuries and deaths every year. It needs to be fully risk assessed, and suitable systems of work implemented to reduce risks to the lowest levels reasonably practicable. In this case, this clearly hadn’t happened effectively”.