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November 10, 2008

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Firm fined after lorry driver falls down unlit stairwell

A lorry driver was seriously injured after falling down an unguarded and unlit stairwell at a depot, a court has heard.

The incident occurred in the early hours of 30 November last year in Prestbrook, Runcorn, when the lorry driver had driven to a depot to collect a trailer. After reversing his vehicle on to the trailer, the driver got out of the lorry to carry out safety checks. While walking along a grass verge he fell down an unlit stairwell, which left him needing surgery to treat serious chest and lung injuries that resulted in him being absent from work for 10 weeks.

Similar stairwells on the site had steel railings to guard the opening, and security lights to protect each entrance. But the stairwell where the accident occurred was missing its railings, while the security light was out of operation.

The company responsible for the depot, TDG, pleaded guilty to breaching section 2 of the HSWA 1974. It was fined £10,000 and ordered to pay costs of £2400, at Halton Magistrates Court, on 27 October.

In mitigation TDG UK Ltd highlighted its early guilty plea and was extremely apologetic about the incident. It also stated that better preventive measures had been put in place as a result of the accident, which it claimed was an oversight in its own safety regulations. The firm also told the court that this was the first incident of this nature to occur at its Runcorn depot.

HSE inspector Gill Chambers told SHP: “The driver was carrying out safety checks after attaching the trailer to the cab. He then proceeded to walk along a grass verge towards the rear of the vehicle, when he fell two feet down a stairwell that led to an emergency exit.

“Not only was the stairwell unlit and unguarded but the trailer was parked in an area where no parking was permitted.

“This accident could easily have been avoided if TDG had correctly audited its security logs, which would have noted the missing barriers and broken security light.”

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