Travis Perkins fined £2 million after customer died in store car park
Tuesday 3rd May 2016
From the archive: Just so you know, this article is more than 3 years old.
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.
The accident occurred when Edward Harris was walking from the car park to the shop on 29 January last year. He passed through a gap in the railings, which was the only route between the car park and the store, and walked behind the parked van. The van reversed and struck Harris. He was knocked to the ground and fractured the top of his femur. He also developed several complications as a result of the accident, including pneumonia, an acute kidney injury and a probable artery blockage in his lung.
An employee of Extreme Handling, a supplier of forklift drivers and general warehouse operatives, was working at GMA Warehousing and Transport’s site in Felixstowe, Suffolk, helping a forklift truck operator move a one-tonne sheet of marble from a container. The marble fell on the Extreme Handling worker, who sustained extensive crush injuries to his legs, a fractured sternum and severe lacerations to the back of his head.
An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive found that Severfield (UK) did not enforce seat belt use or control the speed at which some FLT operators drove their trucks.Teesside Crown Court heard that 27-year-old Kelvin McGibbon was not wearing a seatbelt when his truck overturned after hitting some steps on 13 March 2013. He died from crush injuries.The company pleaded guilty to a non-causative breach of regulation 5(1) of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, and was fined £135,000, and ordered to pay costs of £46,020.
The accident happened at Royal Mail’s bundling centre in Rochester, Kent, on 7 March 2014, when a worker stepped out into an aisle and his foot was crushed by the truck. He was not wearing steel-capped safety boots and sustained broken bones. Pedestrians and vehicles operated in the warehouse without segregation. The Health and Safety Executive’s (HSE) investigation found that the workplace transport was not organised to ensure that both could circulate safely.
On 12 January 2015 a Commercial Body Specialists worker was maneuvering the 18-tonne vehicle at the company’s workshop in Stoke-on-Trent. As he did so he struck two co-workers, pinning them between the moving lorry and two stationary vehicles. One worker sustained pelvis and rib fractures and internal bladder and kidney lacerations, while the other’s legs were crushed. A third employee managed to jump out of the way.
Peterborough Crown Court heard how the 34-year-old employee’s arm was entangled while he was checking the condition of the head roller on a bypass conveyor on 21 August 2014. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found the conveyor was fitted with improper guards and the company’s risk assessment of the machine failed to recognise the danger.