Head Of Training, The Healthy Work Company

December 7, 2015

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Inquiry report into Glasgow bin lorry crash concludes it was an “avoidable incident”

An inquiry report into the Glasgow bin lorry crash has found that the incident, in which a bin lorry driver veered out of control killing six people and injuring 17, could have been avoided if the driver had not lied about his history of blackouts.

Harry Clarke, 58, who blacked out at the wheel of the bin lorry, “repeatedly lied in order to gain and retain jobs and licences” the inquiry report states. It finds eight reasonable precautions that could have prevented the crash, all relating to his hidden medical past.

The fatal accident inquiry (FAI) at Glasgow Sheriff Court, before Sheriff John Beckett, examined the circumstances of the incident, which took place on 22 December 2014, with evidence showing that Mr Clarke had suffered an episode of neurocardiogenic syncope.

Sheriff Beckett stated outright that the crash might have been avoided had Mr Clarke not lied about his medical history.

The report

Sherif Beckett’s report also shows implications for Glasgow City Council and potentially all local authorities; for doctors and GPs; and for the DVLA and driver licensing right across the UK. It further includes appeals to government ministers and requests changes to the law.

Sheriff Beckett concluded: “The most effective measure to prevent such an occurrence would be to seek to avoid drivers becoming incapacitated at the wheel.

“Responsibility in that regard lies with drivers themselves and Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA).

“It may well be that the single most useful outcome of this inquiry would be to raise awareness of the dangers involved in driving if subject to a medical condition which could cause the driver to lose control of a vehicle.”

In its summary of the report, the BBC listed the following areas amongst some of the main points of the Sheriff’s findings:

  • Government action required – including a call for the UK Secretary of State for Transport to consult on how best to ensure the completeness and accuracy of the information available to DVLA in making fitness-to-drive licensing decisions, changes to the law and a consultation on whether doctors should be given greater freedom – or an obligation – to report fitness-to-drive concerns directly to DVLA.
  • Weakness in DVLA rules – it was said there is a “weaknesses in the current system of self-reporting” and more clarity is needed on its “at-a-glance” guidance over “loss of consciousness/loss of or altered awareness”. The sheriff said the DVLA should change its policy on notification from third parties so that relevant fitness-to-drive information from reliable sources, such as the police, can be investigated whether or not it comes in written form.
  • Doctors’ role is vital – The report suggests that doctors generally should make sure medical notes are kept in a way which maximises their ability to identify repeated episodes of loss of consciousness in the case of patients who are drivers. When a doctor is advising an organisation employing a driver as to that driver’s fitness to drive following a medical incident while driving, that organisation should provide all available information about the incident to the doctor and the doctor should insist on having it prior to giving advice to the organisation and the driver.
  • Glasgow City Council’s failures – The Sherrif said that Glasgow City Council should not allow employment of a driver to start before references have been received and called on the council to carry out an internal review to identify areas for improvement in relation to checking medical and sickness absence information provided by applicants.
  • Technological advances – In the report the Sherriff said that local authorities should choose large goods vehicles which have AEBS (advanced emergency braking system) fitted and should consider retro-fitting where practicable. Adding that in the future a type of pedestrian protection sensor, which is available on some cars, could provide a more reliable protection than AEBS.
  • Route risk assessments – Sheriff Becket said the extent of the harm which may be caused by a large goods vehicle could be reduced further by careful route risk assessment, to avoid “exceptional numbers of pedestrians at particular times”.

A DVLA spokesman said: “We are carefully considering the recommendations in the report.”

Following publication of the inquiry report, the Crown Office said: “There are no findings in the determination that undermine the decisions not to prosecute the driver.

“There was no finding that the driver knew or ought to have known that he was unfit to drive.”

The statement concluded: “We note the sheriff’s findings on the driver’s motivation to retain or gain employment.

“It is important to note the sheriff was considering evidence at an FAI where a lesser standard of proof is required and where more relaxed rules of evidence apply.

“A criminal prosecution requires sufficient evidence to the much higher standard beyond reasonable doubt.”

Last month Harry Clarke told the BBC that he “apologises unreservedly” for his role in the crash.

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8 years ago

This was a terrible tragedy and avoidable but if some good can come of it through enhanced safety procedures then that is at least something. It’s just a shame that it’s taken this sort of event to prompt such a review.

steve paul
steve paul
8 years ago

this guy should rot in prison, he is a despicable individual, it is about time RTA fatalities are brought under the H&S legislation. I wonder how he sleeps at night,

William McKevitt
William McKevitt
8 years ago

This report blames everybody except for the lowlife who caused it all. Just like if he had been taking drugs or drinking he knew very well that he could lose control of that vehicle at any time and still he drove. He should be done under the H & S at Work Act for failing to take reasonable care of those people around him. There are lots of honest people out there who have come forward and lost their jobs when they are unfit to drive for medical reasons. They have paid the price for being honest and this greedy… Read more »

Paul Cookson
Paul Cookson
8 years ago

I will play devils advocate in this and put it to others condemning the driver as lowlife and despicable that perhaps they, and many others would do the same, in as far as ensure their job security at any cost. Yes, the driver was stupid and the worst possible outcome happened and he absolutely should be punished as the law requires, but, if in these uncertain times of job security and unemployment, his only way to hold employment was to go down this route so as to ensure he could pay his bills, have food for his family, keep a… Read more »

8 years ago

Absolutely diabolical… what outrage… he Lied, did he make forgelent claim to his fitness or fudged the facts, its plain that HC knew what he was doing… he won’t have a driving job as if he was honest and the Employer did reasonable and appropriate checks, he would have been exposed to questions and therefore, not permitted to Drive for GCC. He knew the outcome would be the worst case. Dangerous Driving comes to mind. He is blatantly culpable. I do hope the families take civil action.