Firm fined after crush tragedy of dad-to-be

Alan Winters'Victim of Industrial accident
Alan Winters'Victim of Industrial accident

A SHEFFIELD crane driver was crushed to death by a forklift truck just weeks before he was due to become a father.

Alan Winters, aged 28, was killed when he and colleagues attempted to unload a four-tonne crate from a shipping container at the DavyMarkham Ltd factory in Darnall, a court heard.

On Monday, the company, which had pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing to an offence under the Health and Safety at Work Act, was fined a total of £33,333 with £49,247 in costs.

Afterwards, Mr Winters’ family criticised the sentence as ‘a load of rubbish’ and left the courtroom in tears when the judgement was read out.

Sheffield Crown Court was told the container arrived at the warehouse in Prince of Wales Road in July 2008, bearing sealed crates holding two pieces of lifting equipment that had been loaned to a business in India.

Workers managed to drag the first crate out, but had to try other ways to remove the second box.

Mr Winters was standing on the back of a truck attempting to unhook a chain from the container when the driver’s foot slipped on the accelerator when Mr Winters asked him to reverse. The vehicle suddenly shot back, crushing Mr Winters between its roll cage and the container’s lid.

He died from his injuries later the same day at the Northern General Hospital. He had just moved into a new house on Greenwood Avenue, Littledale, Darnall, with pregnant girlfriend Laurie Swift when the tragedy happened.

A risk assessment hadn’t been prepared before the container’s arrival, the court heard.

David Travers QC, defending, said a member of staff only started to write an assessment while the crates were being removed. “This accident had a shocking effect on everyone at the site. Every effort has been made to ensure this doesn’t happen again,” he said.

Every risk assessment at the warehouse now had to be signed off before a job starts.

Recorder Clark said: “I’m not here to sentence for causing the death of Mr Winters. These breaches were not directly causative of his death – the cause was his position on the truck and the way the truck reversed. No sentence could ever bring him back.”

Duncan Hay, acting chairman of DavyMarkham, said: “The judge acknowledged that DavyMarkham was not directly responsible for the death of Alan Winters and not only had an exemplary record, but had introduced and implemented every recommendation of the Health and Safety Executive.

“Nonetheless, this was a tragic incident and our thoughts are still very much with Alan Winters’s family.”

HSE Inspector Carol Downes said the tragedy was “utterly preventable if proper assessment and planning had been carried out before unloading was attempted.

“None of the managers or supervisors thought to stop the work until a risk assessment was done or safe procedure found.”