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September 28, 2015

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Fuel firm admits breaches over crush death

Hayes Fuels, a fuel distributor from Northern Ireland, has admitted breaching health and safety legislation in connection with the death of one of its employees, who was crushed when two pallets of coal fell on him.

Mark McCarroll was working as a fork lift driver at Hayes Fuels depot in Belfast’s Harbour estate when the incident happened in March 2013.

It was heard in court how Mr McCarroll was counting bales and had pulled a bale out and set it on the ground, at which stage, two pallet stacks fell on top of him. Medical assistance was called to the yard but he died two days later from chest and pelvic injuries.

The judge was told that the Health and Safety Executive of Northern Ireland (HSENI) found a number of breaches by Hayes Fuels, including:

  • failing to provide adequate measures for employees and non-employees for working close to material stored at height;
  • failing to provide measures to ensure that they were not required to work near unstable pallets; and
  • suitable storage systems should have been developed to prevent material falling from a distance and harming people, including the correct placement of products onto pallets, stacking on level graound and adhering to height limits.

HSENI said that Hayes Fuels should have used an overlapping or ‘staircase’ system to store pallets.

Hayes Fuels director Allister Hayes and risk manager Stanley Gibson both pleaded guilty at Belfast Crown Court. Mr Gibson pleaded guilty to two charges, while Mr Hayes, on behalf of his company, pleaded guilty to charges of failing to ensure the safety of its employees and failing to ensure the safe storage of materials and objects.

A lawyer for Mr Gibson told the judge: “I have read the victim impact statement and I want to publicly state just how devastated my client is that he has been in any way associated with or responsible for the tragic accident.

“You cannot read those statements without recognising the impact this has had on his family.

“He identified the problem on the premises but accepts he did not take the next step and complete his audit.”

A lawyer for Hayes Fuels said that on behalf of the company and Allister Hayes he wanted to “express their sincere apologies to the McCarroll family”.

The judge adjourned sentencing for a month, and told the court: “This is a very tragic case and there is a great deal for me consider.”

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