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February 12, 2014

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Large fine after failure to implement safety system

 

A Widnes-based manufacturer has been fined £100,000 after a worker was crushed to death when a tipper truck overturned when it was allowed to empty its load in too close proximity to another truck. 
 
Plasmor (Halton) Ltd was prosecuted by the HSE after an investigation found the company failed to have a safety system in place for the delivery of raw materials, despite several tipper trucks coming onto the site every day. 
 
The investigation found Plasmor had failed to carry out a risk assessment for the work and should have made sure vehicles were kept a safe distance apart. The person who directed the drivers onto the site had also not received suitable training.
 
Liverpool Crown Court heard yesterday (11 February) that David Astley had taken a truck of limestone dust to the plant on Tanhouse Lane in Widnes on 13 July 2013. The dust is used by the company to manufacture concrete blocks and slabs for the construction industry.
 
The 56-year-old, from Ellesmere Port, was tipping the load onto the site when another driver arrived at the plant with a second load of limestone. The second driver was told to empty his truck in the same place but, as he lifted the trailer, it overturned and fell on top of Mr Astley’s cab, causing his death.
 
The court was told the tipper trucks arriving on the site could weigh up to 44 tonnes and the risk of vehicles overturning is well known in the manufacturing and construction industry.
 
Plasmor (Halton) Ltd, of Wormersley Road in Knottingley, was fined £100,000 and ordered to pay prosecution costs of £28,634 after pleading guilty to a breach of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.
 
Speaking after the hearing, HSE Inspector Jane Carroll said: “Mr Astley sadly lost his life because Plasmor hadn’t considered the risks facing drivers who arrived on the site.
 
“The company should have known there was a danger of tipper trucks overturning, and created exclusion zones to minimise the risk of anyone being injured. Instead, two drivers were allowed to empty their trailers next to each other.
 
“Plasmor has since changed its procedures so staff are properly trained and tipper trucks are kept at least 20 metres apart. If this system had been in place at the time of the incident then Mr Astley’s death could have been avoided.”
 
In mitigation, the company stated that during the investigation into the accident, it was ascertained that the accident was caused by a number of factors; a puncture on the rear trailer of the overturning vehicle, worn chassis pivots on the overturning vehicle, 66 per cent of the load of limestone remaining “hung” in the tipper at the point where it was fully lifted, and the 2.5 per cent slope on the roadway where the overturning vehicle was tipping.
 
The HSE contended that although these factors caused the vehicle to overturn, the death of the driver in the other vehicle could have been avoided had the company been operating an exclusion zone in the tipping area to prohibit two vehicles tipping in close proximity. The company accepts this argument and pleaded guilty on that basis.
 
Since the accident, which has had a profound effect on all those involved at the Widnes Factory, a significant number of changes have been made to working practices in the aggregate reception area at Widnes to bring operational standards in line with the rest of the Plasmor Group.

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