Freight First Limited, a haulage company based in Runcorn, was ordered to pay over £150,000 in fines and costs after one of its employees was killed when he was crushed by a lorry on 22 January 2011.
On the day in question Tony Schulze, an engineer at Freight First Limited, had been working at his employers’ premises on the Astmoor Industrial Estate. He had been asked to work over the weekend to line up trailers in the company’s yard so that they could be used for deliveries and pick-ups on Monday morning, and was working on attaching a lorry cab to a trailer. As Mr Schulze was doing so, he released the brakes on the trailer and the trailer began to roll down the sloping yard. In order to stop the cab Mr Schulze ran beside it and attempted to jump into the cab through the open door, but the lorry cab struck another vehicle and Mr Schulze was crushed between the cab door and the metal frame of the other vehicle. After the accident Mr Schulze’s colleagues attempted to rescue him, but he died at the scene.
The Health and Safety Executive (“HSE”) were notified of the accident and investigated. This investigation found that there had been breaches of health and safety regulations by Freight First Limited, including a failure to undertake a specific risk assessment on the task of connecting cabs to trailers, a failure to implement a safe system of work for the coupling and uncoupling of vehicles, that Mr Schulze had not been trained on coupling lorries, that there was no written procedure for the undertaking of such work, and that Mr Schulze did not normally drive lorries. The HSE investigation therefore recommended that Freight First Limited be prosecuted for the health and safety breaches.
The case came to the Liverpool Crown Court on 28 January 2016, with Freight First Limited being found guilty of breaching s.2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. The company was fined £90,000 and ordered to pay £67,500 in prosecution costs.
HSE Inspector Adam McMahon commented after the hearing: “Mr Schulze tragically lost his life as a result of the failings of his employer, Freight First. The case highlights the need for transport companies to ensure their employees have the correct training. They should also act on advice from health and safety experts and make sure safe systems of work are in place.”
Chris Hadrill, a solicitor at Redmans, commented on the case: “Employers have an obligation to take reasonably practicable steps to ensure that the health, safety, and welfare of workers and third parties are protected. A failure to do so could lead to injuries to workers and/or third parties, and potentially civil lawsuits and criminal prosecution.”