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Health and Safety Executive prosecutes over vineyard owner’s death

14th May 2014

£200,000 fine for company after man crushed to death by empty wine bottles

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has fined a distribution company £200,000 after the tragic death of a Cornish vineyard owner, killed when a delivery of empty wine bottles fell from the tail lift of a lorry he was helping to unload.  The distribution firm, Gregory Distribution, was also ordered to pay the nearly £17,000 costs of the prosecution that had been brought against it by the HSE.

The fatal incident happened back in April 2008 at the vineyard owned by the deceased man, which was located near St Austell in Cornwall.  The owner was helping to unload a Gregory Distribution lorry that was driven on that day by an agency driver.  As the vehicle was being unloaded some of the bottles fell from the tail lift, causing the vineyard’s owner fatal head and chest injuries.  Due to the nature of the accident, the Health and Safety Executive launched an investigation and identified that Gregory Distribution had breached the Health and Safety at Work Act by failing to ensure that it had in place adequate arrangements and procedures for unloading pallets from the back of its vehicles.

In comments reported on the Health and Safety Executive’s own website, HSE Inspector Simon Jones said:

"This tragic accident highlights the dangers involved in unloading large and heavy loads using a tail lift. Employers should ensure that employees are given the right equipment, information, instruction and training to allow them to unload loads safely. Where employers use the services of agency staff they should ensure that those agency staff are aware of the systems of work in place and have the skills and training to undertake the required tasks. Tail lifts should be examined by a competent person at least every six months to ensure that they are safe to use. If these simple measures had been taken then this accident would not have happened and the vineyard’s owner would not have died in these tragic circumstances."

Claiming compensation for a fatal injury to a family member

This tragic incident in Cornwall shows exactly why it is important that businesses have in place proper procedures for their staff to follow whenever they are engaged in manual work, such as heavy lifting, or as in this particular case, unloading materials from a vehicle. If employees have not been properly trained and if they are not provided with any protective clothing or equipment that they might require to do their jobs safely, then not only is the risk of an accident much greater, but employers are also leaving themselves open to compensation claims made by the families of those killed in a workplace accident.

If you have lost a family member in an accident at work and you would like independent professional legal advice to help you to make a compensation claim against their employer, then Camps Solicitors can help. Our workplace injury claims solicitors can take the strain out of making your claim, ensuring that you are not under any more pressure at what for most people is a very difficult time.