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Vehicle recovery firm fined £96,000 after death of employee

A Widnes vehicle recovery company and its managing director have been found guilty at Liverpool Crown Court of health and safety offences which led to the death of a company employee.

Hough Green Garage Ltd, of Pickerings Road, Widnes, was fined a total of £96,000 and ordered to pay £20,000 costs while its managing director David Nigel Farrell of Cronton, Widnes, Cheshire, was fined a total of £14,000 and ordered to pay £15,000 costs.

The charges arose following an incident on December 31, 2003 when Scott Allen (36), an employee of Hough Green Garage Ltd, was fatally injured while recovering a bus from Church Road, Garston, Liverpool, opposite the Prince Alfred Hospital. Allen lived in Runcorn, Cheshire.

Allen had been sent by his employer to recover a single deck Volvo B10 B bus, owned by Glenvale Transport Ltd of Aintree, Liverpool. The air suspension system on the bus failed while he was working underneath the unsupported vehicle, which led to the body of the bus crushing him. He died on arrival at Royal Liverpool hospital, leaving a partner and stepdaughter.

Hough Green Garage Ltd was found guilty on two charges under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, Section 2(1) in that they failed to ensure the health and safety of an employee, for which it was fined £60,000 and £30,000 respectively.

There was a further charge under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, regulation 3, in that they failed to carry out a risk assessment in relation to the roadside recovery of vehicles, for which they were fined £6,000.

David Nigel Farrell, Hough Green's managing director, was found guilty of two charges under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, Section 37 in that he consented in the failure to comply with the Section 2(1) cases against the company for which he was fined £10,000 and £4,000 respectively.

David Sowerby, HSE's head of operations in the North West, said: "HSE's guidance clearly states that no employee should work under unsupported vehicles, whatever the nature of the vehicle's suspension system. The tragic incident to Mr Allen was easily avoidable.

"To reduce the risk of this type of incident recurring, we have undertaken further work with the organisations representing the roadside recovery industry. All agree recovery operators should never work under unsupported vehicles for any purpose - this includes both adjusting the bus's air suspension system using the levelling valve and also using this system to raise a vehicle to gain access underneath.

#AM_ART_SPLIT# "Since the incident, the Publicly Available Specification, from BSI, PAS 43, 'Safe working of vehicle breakdown, recovery and removal operations. Management system specification', which is widely accepted by the industry, has been amended to emphasise this point. Additionally, HSE and the Institute for Vehicle Recovery (IVR) are about to publish new joint guidance on this matter.

"The fundamental failures: to have safe systems of work; proper risk assessments; and safe operating procedures were key factors in Mr Allen's death. Recovery companies should ensure that they have the correct procedures in place when their employees have to work underneath vehicles at the roadside".

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