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February 5, 2009

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GBP 150,000 fine after driver crushed by steel cargo

A shipping firm has been fined £150,000 after an HGV driver was crushed

to death when an unsecured load of sheet steel punctured the back of

his cab.

Lawrence Allen, 37, was transporting 25 tonnes of steel at Seaforth docks in Bootle, Merseyside when the accident took place on 14 September 2006.

Mr Allen was moving the load from Gladstone Steel Terminal to the quayside, a distance of approximately one mile. The steel had not been secured and was reliant on its weight to be held in place. During the journey Mr Allen slowed down to approach a roundabout, which caused the steel to slide forward and puncture the back of his cab, crushing him against the steering wheel. He was pronounced dead on arrival at hospital and a post mortem revealed that he died of asphyxiation as a result of crush injuries.

Coastal Container Line, a subsidiary of the Mersey Docks and Harbour Company, the statutory harbour authority for the Port of Liverpool and Birkenhead Docks, pleaded guilty to breaching s2(1) and s3(1) of the HSWA 1974 at South Sefton Magistrates’ Court. The firm was committed for sentencing at Liverpool Crown Court, where it appeared on 29 January, and was fined £150,000 and ordered to pay costs of £26,732.

In mitigation, the company told the court that it had a good safety record and deeply regretted the incident. As a result of the accident the firm immediately stopped the operation and carried out a full risk assessment. It now secures all loads before transport and provides staff with load-restraint training.

HSE inspector, Kevin Jones, said: “The investigation identified a number of failings including a lack of planning and inadequate training for drivers. A key factor was the practice not to secure the steel but to rely upon the weight of the steel and friction to hold the load in place while the vehicle was moving.

“The transport of steel between the steel terminal and the quayside had been taking place in this manner for at least eight months, putting not only the drivers at risk but also members of the public using the roads within the dock complex.

“Employers must ensure that there is suitable and sufficient planning for transport operations, and make sure that loads are adequately restrained. Friction alone should never be relied upon to secure a load.”

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