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Freight co knew of poor risk assessment prior to worker’s death

A Cheshire-based haulage firm was warned of its lacking risk assessment one month before an employee was killed by an out of control vehicle, a Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation found.

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Freight First must pay £90,000 in fines after a runaway lorry ploughed into employee Tony Schulze on 22 January 2011, crushing him to death.   

Schulze, who was not normally tasked with driving articulated vehicles and had no training for coupling lorries, was working at the weekend parking trailers in the yard so they would be ready for pick-ups and deliveries on Monday morning. 

As he released the brakes on one of the trailers to attach it to a lorry cab, it rolled forward. Schulze ran past the trailer and in front of the cab in a bid to jump through the open door but he was crushed between the door and cab frame when the HGV hit another vehicle. He died at the scene, despite co-workers’ attempts to save him. 

In addition to the lack of training, there was no safe system of work for the coupling and uncoupling of vehicles, nor was there a written procedure for the work, according to the HSE. The cab’s handbrake also was not applied. Freight First’s generic risk assessment, prepared in May 2010, did not address connecting cabs to trailers and failed to identify the risk of runaway vehicles. An external health and safety adviser had highlighted the insufficient risk assessment to the company in December 2010, though no action was taken. 

Freight First was fined £90,000 at Liverpool Crown Court and ordered to pay £67,500 in costs after it was found guilty of a breach of Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act. 

“If Mr Schulze had pulled the park button on the trailer when it started to move then it would have activated the trailer brakes. However there is no evidence to prove that Mr Schulze had received training on coupling the HGVs, so may well not have known this,” said HSE inspector Adam McMahon after the hearing.

 

Keeley Downey is acting deputy editor of IOSH Magazine. She is a former editor of Biofuels International, Bioenergy Insight and Tank Cleaning Magazine

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