A decision to allow an unsupervised, inexperienced 21-year-old worker to operate a poorly-maintained loader had fatal consequences, a court has heard.
Mark Bate, of Tipton, West Midlands, was killed instantly when the arm of a JCB skid-steer loader crushed his head on 12 June 2008. He had been driving the vehicle at SITA UK Ltd’s premises on the Coneygre Industrial Estate for three months without being properly trained.
On the day of the incident, he was working on his own to load scrap paper on to a conveyor. Once he had finished, he brought the load to a halt and raised the safety bar from across his lap to isolate the machine. But the vehicle failed to isolate and, as he leant out of the front of the vehicle, the loader’s arm fell and crushed his head against the machine, killing him immediately.
The HSE investigation found that Mr Bate had never received formal training or assessment in the use of the vehicle, and a self-employed maintenance engineer had also used it over several months with no training.
In addition, the court heard the loader had not been maintained in the eight months before the incident. It should have been serviced at least twice during this period.
Appearing at Wolverhampton Crown Court on 1 June, SITA UK was fined £200,000 and ordered to pay full costs of £77,402, after pleading guilty to breaching s2(1) and s3(1) of the HSWA 1974.
The company was also instructed to reimburse Mr Bate’s mother, Catherine Jones, £4450 in funeral costs. In a statement released via the HSE, she said: “Nothing and no one can bring Mark back but, four years on, we feel we are finally getting justice for what happened to him that day.”
Following the case, HSE inspector David Evans said: “Mark Bate was a young man who should have had a long life ahead of him. Instead, he was killed in an entirely avoidable tragedy. Despite knowing his lack of experience, SITA left him unsupervised to operate the loader. Furthermore, the vehicle was dangerous because it had not been properly maintained.
“The company’s risk assessment should have identified these issues but did not cover the use of this machine.”
In a statement following the hearing, SITA expressed its regret for Mr Bate’s tragic death. The firm added: “Mark was a well-liked and respected member of the team at Tipton and we would reiterate our sincere condolences to his family and friends. We acknowledge that this accident should have never happened and we continue to use the learnings from this to improve the health and safety of our employees.”
SITA UK has been prosecuted for health and safety failings in the past, most recently in 2010, when it received a £210,000 fine following an incident in which a lorry driver was crushed to death at a Northamptonshire landfill site.
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