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March 4, 2014

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Mobile Sweepers Boss ordered to pay over £200,000 following worker’s fatality


Mervyn Owens, the director of Mobile Sweepers (Reading) Ltd, has been fined £183,000 after a worker was killed while undertaking repairs to a road sweeper. 
Malcolm Hinton, 56, a father-of-three from Calcot, near Reading, died when he was crushed by the two tonne machine which he was attempting to fix. 
Winchester Crown Court heard that he had no training in mechanics, no protection of any sort and there was no available ‘prop’ to keep the sweeper from falling. The light on site was said to be very poor.
The sweeper had been raised off the ground using its own hydraulic system and Mr Hinton had inadvertently cut through the hydraulic hose that was preventing it from falling on him. 
Following the incident a joint police and HSE investigation found that vehicles were not properly maintained, repairs were inadequate, there were no records of maintenance kept and no training had been offered. Additionally, the court heard that all six sweepers owned by the company had a “litany of faults”. 
Prosecuting, Esther Schutzer-Weissmann said there was a culture of “blatantly disregarding the health and safety of those who worked there and those who came into contact with it. It was only a matter of time before someone died.” 
She added that previous employees and Owens himself had been injured at the company in previous years and that people had left because of the dangers. She said: “Over many years the company had been run on a shoestring.” 
Mobile Sweepers (Reading) Limited pleaded guilty to a charge under section 1 of the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007 at an earlier hearing on 2 December 2013. The company was fined £8,000 and ordered to pay a further £4,000 in costs.
Mervyn Owens, Director of Mobile Sweepers (Reading) Limited, pleaded guilty to a charge under section 2 of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 at the same hearing on 2 December 2013. He was fined £183,000 with £8,000 costs, and was also disqualified from holding the position as a company director for five years. 
Further charges against both parties were left to lie on file. 
Speaking after sentencing at Winchester Crown Court, HSE principal inspector Steve Hull said: “Malcolm Hinton’s tragic death was wholly avoidable had Mobile Sweepers (Reading) Limited and company director Mervyn Owens ensured that the raised hopper of the road sweeper vehicle, which weighed over half a tonne, was safely propped as he worked underneath. 
“Planned, preventive maintenance procedures should be in place for all work vehicles to ensure they are kept in good condition. Parts fail less often when they are, and it negates the need for unplanned, often rushed, emergency repairs. 
“Whenever someone has to work beneath a raised load, such as a tipper body, it is essential that propping arrangements are adequate to prevent devastating failures — as was the case here. 
“HSE’s own records show that 22 fatalities have occurred over the past 10 years alone due to inadequate propping when working beneath vehicles or vehicle bodies.
“Employers should also reflect that it is just as important to ensure that there are adequate health and safety arrangements in place for casual workers, as was the status of Mr Hinton, as there are for regular employees. All workers deserve the same levels of heath and safety protection and the law makes no distinction between what employers need to provide for different categories of staff.” 
In a victim impact statement, Mrs Hinton said that when she received the news of her husband’s death: “The world crashed in around me. I felt as if it was a bad dream.” 
She said that two of their children were suffering with deep depression and that she had since had a mini-stroke.

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