A corporate manslaughter prosecution by Dorset Police has resulted in convictions for a waste management company and its director.
A waste and recycling company has been sentenced for corporate manslaughter and other health and safety offences following the death of a man at a site in Poole. A company director has also been sentenced in connection with the incident.
The first incident occurred on Thursday 13 December 2018 when an employee at the site was injured following a collision with a vehicle and very sadly died as a result of the injuries he sustained. The man was sorting recycling materials by hand in the yard when he was struck and killed by a reversing wheeled loader vehicle, which was being used to sort materials.
A further incident occurred on Monday 1 June 2020, in which an employee sustained injuries after becoming trapped in a large mechanical conveyor after he had climbed in to remove a blockage. The man sustained broken ribs and other injuries.
The joint investigation focused on allegations that the company had failed to put in place sufficient working practices to safeguard its employees, including failing to ensure employees were segregated from moving vehicles during waste sorting. It was also found that the company failed to provide its employees with adequate training, monitoring and supervision to prevent vehicle collisions in the yard.
A separate investigation by the HSE found that FDS Waste Services failed to ensure that the workforce was provided with the padlocks required for locking the power source of the machinery in the ‘off’ position and did not offer adequate training for dealing with blockages and other maintenance tasks, which required access behind the machinery guards.
Detectives from Dorset Police’s Major Crime Investigation Team (MCIT) worked jointly with the HSE to conduct detailed enquiries into the operations at the facility and liaised with a number of experts to compile evidence. Following engagement with specialists at the Crown Prosecution Service, charges were approved and the matter was brought before the court.
Following a four-week trial at Winchester Crown Court the company was found guilty of a charge of corporate manslaughter. It was also convicted for two offences of failing to discharge its duty under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.
At a sentencing hearing on Wednesday 22 February 2023, the company was ordered to pay fines totalling £640,000, as well as costs of £60,000. Also, the company director, Philip Pidgley, was also convicted of an offence of failing to discharge his duty under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. He was sentenced to six months in prison, suspended for 12 months.
“Our thoughts remain with the family and loved ones of Mr Mohamed, who sadly died as a result of the incident on Thursday 13 December 2018.
“Nothing will ever make up for their loss, but we owe it to them to ensure those who put him and other employees at risk by failing to instil safe working practices are held to account.
“We have carried out a detailed investigation in conjunction with the HSE and other experts in order to demonstrate how the company fell below the standards required of them.”Detective Superintendent Rich Dixey, of Dorset Police
After the prosecution, HSE inspector Berenice Ray said:
“Both of these incidents, including the tragic death of Mr Mohamed, could have been avoided had well-established measures been taken to ensure workers’ health and safety.
“Those in control of work must ensure that their workplace is organised in such a way that pedestrians and vehicles can circulate in a safe manner.
“They must also ensure that the power source of relevant machinery is isolated and physically ‘locked off’ whenever the guards are removed or access within the machinery is necessary.
“Those in control of work have a duty to assess the risks; devise safe methods of working and provide the necessary information, instruction and training to their workforce.
“They must also adequately supervise work activities to check the effectiveness of the training provided and ensure safe systems of work are followed.
“There is clear, freely available guidance on how to manage these risks available on HSE’s website.”
Employers who operate waste management sites must ensure that a suitable and sufficient risk assessment is undertaken covering the plant movement risks. When considering the risks from vehicle manoeuvring, employers must ensure that vehicles have large enough windscreens (with wipers where necessary) and external mirrors to provide an all-round field of vision. It is often worthwhile adding extra mirrors to reduce blind spots for drivers. Side mirrors can allow drivers of larger vehicles to see cyclists and pedestrians alongside their vehicles and can be effective in improving visibility around the vehicle from the driving position. These mirrors are fitted to larger road-going vehicles as standard.
Drivers should not place items in the windscreen area or in the way of mirrors or monitors, where they might impede visibility from the driving position. The area of the windscreen that is kept clear by the wipers should not be obscured, and nor should the side windows. Windows and mirrors will also normally need to be kept clean and in good repair. Dirt or cracks can make windows or mirrors less effective.
Some types of vehicles (such as straddle carriers, large shovel loaders and some large quarry vehicles) often have poor visibility from the cab. Visibility can be poor to the side or front of a vehicle as well as behind and loads on vehicles can severely limit the visibility from the driving position.
Lift trucks and compact dumper vehicles in particular can have difficulty with forward visibility when they are transporting bulky loads. Employers should recognise these risks in their risk assessment and think about ways to minimise them.
Closed-circuit television (CCTV) may help drivers to see clearly behind or around the vehicle. CCTV can cover most blind spots and the cost of fitting CCTV systems has fallen since the technology was first developed. Companies who have fitted CCTV have found that it can reduce the number of reversing accidents, so the systems usually pay for themselves in a few years.
Colour systems can provide a clearer image where there is little contrast (for example, outside on an overcast day). However, black-and-white systems normally provide a better image in lower light or darkness, and usually come with infra-red, which can be more effective than standard cameras at night.
Monitors should have adjustable contrast, brightness and resolution controls to make them useful in the different light conditions in which they will be used. Drivers may need to use a hood to shield any monitor from glare.
If possible, fit the camera for a CCTV system high up in the middle of the vehicle’s rear (one camera), or in the upper corners (two cameras). This will provide a greater field of vision and a better angle for the driver to judge distance and provide. It also keeps the camera clear of dust and spray, and out of the reach of thieves or vandals.
However, CCTV systems do have some limitations which employers should consider:
- If the vehicle leaves a darker area to a more strongly lit area (for example, driving out of a building) the system may need time to adjust to the brightness.
- A dirty lens will make a camera much less effective.
- Drivers may find it difficult to judge heights and distances.
Drivers should not be complacent about safety even with CCTV systems installed. They should be trained in proper use of the equipment and employers have a duty to provide such training and instruction.
Reversing alarms may be drowned out by other noise or may be so common on a busy site that pedestrians do not take any notice. It can also be hard to know exactly where an alarm is coming from, and people who are less able to hear are also at greater risk. Alarms can also disturb nearby residents. However, reversing alarms may be appropriate (based on the risk assessment) but might be most effectively used with other measures, such as warning lights.
Additional advice on transport safety can be found in the HSE Guide to workplace transport safety (HSG 136, 2014) which is available free on the website. If you require health and safety advice or support for your business, please contact one of our team.