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August 19, 2015

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HSE inspector defends Glasgow bin lorry crash decision

An inspector for the Health and Safety Executive has been challenged over the investigation into the Glasgow bin lorry crash that left six people dead.

At the inquiry into the tragedy, which took place on the 22 December, Barry Baker has denied a suggestion that a decision to treat the crash as a road traffic accident was “hasty and ill-advised”.

Mr Baker was giving evidence for a second day at the inquiry, which has been told that at a meeting held the day following the crash it was decided that the incident was a road traffic accident to be investigated by the police.

The meeting had representatives from the police, the Crown Office, the HSE and others.

The inquiry, now in its fifth week, has heard that lorry driver Harry Clarke had a history of dizzy spells and fainting, which he had not disclosed to the DVLA or on job application forms.

It has been suggested that Mr Clarke’s medical records were not obtained until 7 January.

Mark Stewart QC, acting for the family of three of the victims said: “So, this incident was written off within 30 hours by a group who convened without the benefit of what could have been significant information in relation to this particular driver, that could have had a bearing on the issue of contravention of the Health and Safety at Work Act?”

Mr Baker said: “I disagree with that. If there’s a problem with medical fitness to drive, that’s a matter for the DVLA. We would become involved if there were systematic issues.”

Mr Stewart said: “The idea that this accident was categorised as a road traffic accident, it must seem that that was hasty and ill-advised?”

The HSE inspector said: “No. I disagree that it was hasty. It was clearly a road traffic accident, it was investigated by the correct regulators.”

The Crown asked the HSE to provide a report on Glasgow City Council’s risk assessment procedures for waste collection ahead of the inquiry.

It found the local authority had taken a “sensible and informed” approach, and appeared to comply with HSE guidelines.

During lengthy questioning by Mr Stewart, the inspector was asked to comment on risk assessment documents produced by North Lanarkshire Council.

The lawyer said they provided an example of how things might have been done differently at Glasgow and with the benefit of hindsight.

The documents included individual waste collection route assessments where busy spots such as markets were highlighted.

Mr Stewart said: “When people try, they can devise and implement a higher standard of route risk assessments for waste collection than is required by the Health and Safety Act, that is what I am trying to show you.”

Mr Baker said he did not know if the system was of a higher standard than Glasgow but would commend anybody going beyond what was required.

Erin McQuade, 18, and her grandparents Jack Sweeney, 68, and Lorraine Sweeney, 69, from Dumbarton, died when the truck driven by Mr Clarke, 58, lost control on Queen Street three days before Christmas.

Jacqueline Morton, 51, and Stephenie Tait, 29, from Glasgow, and Gillian Ewing, 52, from Edinburgh, were also killed in the accident.

Relatives of Ms Morton have asked for the inquiry to be halted as they try to bring a private prosecution against Mr Clarke, who the inquiry has heard suffers from vasovagal syndrome, a condition that affects the heart rate and blood pressure.

The request follows a decision by the Crown Office not to bring charges against the council worker.

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