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Travis Perkins fined £2 million after customer died in store car park

The builder’s merchant reviewed workplace transport rules and trained all staff as banksmen after the incident. 

 

Travis Perkins fined £2million after customer run over in company’s yard
© Newscast/REX/Shutterstock

On 9 November 2012, Mark John Porter was loading timber onto the roof of his Land Rover at Travis Perkins’ Milton Keynes store, when one of the cargo straps holding the planks snapped and he fell.

At the same time, a flatbed vehicle was manoeuvring into a space between Porter’s vehicle and another lorry that was parked in the branch’s loading area. Porter was run over by the lorry and died following crush injuries to his chest.

Amersham Crown Court heard that Porter was unable to load the timber in the store’s designated loading area as a Travis Perkins heavy goods vehicle (HGV) had parked there. An investigation by the environmental team at Milton Keynes Council revealed that Travis Perkins habitually parked the HGV in the space.

Travis Perkins pleaded guilty to breaching Sections 2(1) and 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act. The company had initially denied a link between the offences and the death, leading to a Newton hearing, where submissions are made by both prosecution and defendants on plea and sentencing.

When applying the sentencing guidelines, Judge Justin Cole did not accept the defence’s argument that the circumstances of the accident were highly unusual. The council’s investigation found there was a documented risk of stumbling or falling in the car park, particularly when loading and unloading, and that collisions with HGVs were likely to cause serious injury or death.

The judge established Travis Perkins’ culpability as medium, the harm level as category A (reflecting death or life-changing injury) and a harm likelihood category of 1 (high). As aggravating factors he noted the company’s previous conviction in 2006, when one of its workers was crushed between two vehicles at a yard in Oldham, Greater Manchester, as well as the failure to use a banksman and provide supervision at the Milton Keynes premises. 

In mitigation the company submitted extensive workplace transport procedures, though the judge noted it was important not just to have them but to ensure they were implemented.
Judge Cole also noted the guidelines’ stipulation that a fine “must be sufficiently substantial to have a real economic impact which will bring home to both management and shareholders the need to comply with health and safety legislation”.

Travis Perkins’ turnover (£2bn) could have classified the company as a “very large” organisation – the guidelines say penalties above the normal ranges for large organisations may be applied in such cases. However, the judge took into account the defence’s mitigation and used the range for large organisations, which is between £800,000 and £3.25m. He set the fine near the top of the range, but discounted it to £2m, £1m for each count, in recognition of Travis Perkins’ guilty plea at the first reasonable opportunity. The company was ordered to pay £114,813 costs.

Following the accident Travis Perkins brought in a senior consultant to reassess and advise on its workplace transport arrangements.

The company has now made it a requirement for all delivery drivers to report to the branch before entering the yard, which means that staff are aware of a vehicle’s presence and can make sure safe systems are operating.

The company has increased signage and installed moveable barriers to cordon off areas with frequent vehicle movement. All staff at the branch are now trained as banksmen, and the yellow hatched loading area is kept clear at all times for loading and unloading. 

Travis Perkins said work is “ongoing to apply tailored solutions that minimise the very specific risks” at its 2,000 sites which which vary in layout.

 

Comments

  • Its a disgrace that it takes

    Permalink Submitted by Pat Higgins on 4 May 2016 - 01:20 pm

    Its a disgrace that it takes 4yrs for a case to get to court when someone has lost their life and what is 2 million pounds to a company like Travis Perkins, company managers should be jailed when someone loses their life in the work place, its just neglect by senior managers to provide a safe working environment.

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  • I know a little about this

    Permalink Submitted by S Pope on 4 May 2016 - 02:03 pm

    I know a little about this accident and its circumstances. The accident occurred in a builders merchant yard which is little different from most other car parks where there is a mix of vehicle types. The customer had parked his vehicle in a marked parking bay. Whilst securing a load on his vehicle's roof he stood on either the footstep or tyre of his Landover and lent back to tension the security strap which then broke. He then fell backwards under a 3.5t flatbed vehicle that was being driven at less than 3 miles an hour and which was some 1.8 m away from him on the adjacent yard. It is an accident which could occur in many car park where larger vehicles mix with other vehicles and pedestrians, e.g. smaller supermarkets, DIY stores, agricultural merchants etc.

    If what the EHO are suggesting is put into practice it means that all customers who load anything on their roof will need to be supervised, provided with safe access equipment and be in an area where other vehicles are excluded! This goes beyond reasonably practicable in most situations. The easier solution will be for occupiers to prohibit such activities on their premises which will mean customers will carry out the same activity on or adjacent to the public highway where the risks will be even higher!

    This is another case where something tragic happens and somebody must be held accountable and blamed.

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  • Very sad and no doubt

    Permalink Submitted by RayR on 4 May 2016 - 02:10 pm

    Very sad and no doubt unnecessary incident if proper controls were put in place. I cannot help thinking a few years back I applied for a H&S Manager role with the same company but was turned down because of my salary expectation - a lot less than £2 million quid!

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  • I have worked in timber and

    Permalink Submitted by Keith on 4 May 2016 - 09:45 pm

    I have worked in timber and builders yards at a senior level for 30 years. T P are a competitor of ours. I can only say that, on the face of the very basic information that I have read, TP have been hung out to dry, to make a strong point. "There's nothing like a hanging to focus the mind".

    Separating Customers from operations is almost impossible, unless they are totally segregated and goods are dropped at a place where the Customer then loads up, away from any other possible interference. If you have a large number of collections each day, how on earth can you do that?

    I do not know this particular yard, but if it's like 99% of yards across the UK, there will be a lot of effort to provide safe areas for customers. Hi Vis and all manner of signage, markings, barriers and staff intervention will be in place but ultimately, the freak chance of someone snapping a loading strap (their own, so no fault of TP) and falling backwards into the path of an oncoming forklift/handling truck is a freak accident.

    So, perhaps everything should be delivered to site? That just kicks the can down the road and also creates far more potential hazards.

    Obviously, everyone feels awful about any death or injury. It's the big thing that we all lose sleep over, worrying about it happening on our watch, but this looks as if TP, a big PLC, have been picked on. They're made out to be 100% negligent, with no culpability from the Customer.

    That just doesn't sit right.

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  • Wow! Now that must have hit

    Permalink Submitted by douglas cameron on 4 May 2016 - 10:00 pm

    Wow! Now that must have hit the bottom line hard

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