Imposing a fine of €40,000 on a company, following an accident in which a worker collecting materials from a supplier’s premises was killed, a Circuit Court judge said it only takes a “split second” for a fatality to occur.
Earlier the court heard from HSA inspector, Martina O’Kearney Flynn, that the worker, Sergei Piller, who was killed, worked for an insulation company. He was at the supplier’s premises, collecting materials. She told the court that on the day of the fatal accident, the supplier’s forklift truck driver placed a number of pallets on Mr Piller’s truck, before returning to the warehouse to get more.
The court heard that Mr Piller offered to help the forklift truck driver, but the driver told him he would be quicker on his own and told him to return to his truck. Then, as the forklift driver was returning to the truck, he felt the forklift bearers “pulling off the ground”.
The driver stopped the forklift and lifted the forks, to find Mr Piller lying underneath. The forklift driver performed CPR. An ambulance was called and Mr Piller was pronounced dead after his arrival in hospital. The court heard that he died from massive chest injuries.
The court heard that there were rules in place on the site requiring all visitors to stay in their trucks while pallets were being loaded. However, Ms O’Kearney Flynn told the court that she spoke to four regular visitors to the premises. They reported that they were never told to stay in their trucks and were never given any written on-site procedures. The inspector found there was no traffic management in place in the yard to allow for the safe circulation of traffic and pedestrians.
She told the court that after the accident, the company voluntarily closed the yard for a period to allow for new safety systems to be put in place. These included a new barrier and intercom at the site entrance, a designated loading area with a pedestrian walkway and restricted access to the warehouse.
The company pleaded guilty to a charge under section 12 of the SHWW Act 2005, of failing to manage and conduct its activities in such a way as to ensure, in so far as reasonably practicable, that in the course of work, individuals, not being employees, are not exposed to risks to their safety.
In a plea in mitigation, counsel for the company told the court said the company accepted full responsibility for the accident and had agreed to pay the prosecution’s costs and accept whatever fine the court imposed.
He said that prior to the incident, the company had an unblemished record, was a well-run company and was not attempting to cut corners. He said that following the accident, a comprehensive review was undertaken by the company and the site was “now effectively a model site”. He read out a statement on behalf of the company’s director, in which the company expressed its deep and profound regret at the death of Mr Piller.
The court also heard victim impact statements from the deceased worker’s widow and his mother. The court also heard that the forklift truck was distraught and absolutely devastated by what had happened. He had the court was told ten years’ experience driving forklifts and eight months before the accident, he had completed a refresher course. He was described as a “diligent and conscientious employee”.
Delivering judgment, Judge Karen O’Connor extended her condolences to Mr Piller’s family. She accepted that the company had been compliant in the past and had co-operated fully with the HSA investigation. Saying that every company has to be vigilant in relation to its employees and others attending at their premises, she said it only takes a “split second” for a fatality to occur.
She imposed a fine of €40,000 and ordered the company to pay DPP’s costs of €2,000 and the HSA’s costs of €984. (DPP for HSA v Knauf (UK) GMBH, Dublin Criminal Circuit Court, October 2017)
Source: Health and Safety Review