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Veolia fined £750,000 for worker's death

20 June 2016 | Herpreet Kaur Grewal

Veolia Environmental Services has been fined £750,000 after it was found guilty of breaching the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. 

The waste and energy management services provider was also ordered to pay £11,981 in costs after a worker was crushed to death by a refuse collection vehicle. 

Preston Crown Court heard that, on 17 May 2014, during a refurbishment task at John Fowler and Son Limited in Chorley, an operative using the controls within the vehicle’s cab closed the tailgate on Rick Calsen, who was at the rear of the vehicle, fatally crushing him to death. 

Veolia, in addition to John Fowler and Son Limited, pleaded guilty. The latter was fined £65,000 and ordered to pay £12,443 in costs. 

The investigation from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that the injury occurred due to a “poor system of work” and John Fowler and Son, which it explained “derived from a lack of a suitable and sufficient assessment of the risks”. 

HSE also said Veolia failed in its inspection regime, which did not systematically review the functionality of a designed safety function in the vehicle. 

The vehicle was supplied with in-cab controls, where it ‘should not have been possible’ for the tailgate to completely close. The investigation found that the switch had become faulty. 

After the hearing, HSE inspector Rohan Lye said: “This tragic incident was entirely preventable. 

“It is important for organisations to maintain safety critical devices so they function correctly. Additionally, if a company utilises a system of work which does not rely on the effectiveness of that safety device, but then employs a contractor to work on the machine, there should be an effectively communicated handover so both are aware of any limitations and how the machine could function. 

“Veolia’s failure to include the functionality of a manufacturer-stated safety critical device on its RCVs (refuse collection vehicles) in its maintenance regimes resulted in an inability to relay information to any third party about its presence and condition. Therefore it exposed non-employees to unnecessary risk and ultimately contributed to this appalling loss of life. 

“Similarly, John Fowler and Son’s failure to implement a safe system of work for the maintenance of the RCV meant that any of its employees were exposed to the same risk. The lack of an adequate assessment of the risks of working around RCVs enabled the hazard of the non-functioning switch to materialise in the worst possible manner.” 

Other recent fines include British Telecom plc, which was fined £500,000 after an engineer fell seven metres from a loft in London, sustaining severe back injuries. 

The HSE’s investigation found that the employee was working alone and there was inadequate planning of work taking place. BT was also ordered to pay costs of £98,913.51. 

John Pointon and Sons Limited, a food waste disposal and recycling business, was also fined £250,000 after three employees were affected by toxic gases at an animal waste facility in Stoke-on-Trent. 

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