Crush death firm admits to breaking safety laws

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AN ENGINEERING firm in Sheffield has admitted breaching health and safety laws after a worker was crushed to death in a forklift truck accident.

Alan Winters, aged 28, a crane driver at the DavyMarkham factory in Darnall, was killed when a group of employees tried to extract a crate weighing up to five tonnes from a shipping container.

DavyMarkham could now face an unlimited fine after the company pleaded guilty to failing to ensure its employees’ health and safety on the day of the accident nearly three years ago.

Sheffield Magistrates Court heard an emotional statement from Alan’s mother, Kim, 52, who described her son’s loss as a “permanent knife” in her heart.

Alan had just moved into a new house on Greenwood Avenue, Littledale, with pregnant girlfriend Laurie Swift.

He died six weeks before the birth of his first son, Alan junior.

Fiona Carter, prosecuting, said two of the crates had been returned to Sheffield from DavyMarkham’s parent company in India, Hindustan Dorr-Oliver, who bought the engineering firm for £9m last year.

“They went out in open-topped containers and it was known to the company for a week that they would come back in closed containers,” she said.

“That created a problem. Mr Winters was trying to help work out how they were going to get these crates out.”

She said the first crate was removed by hauling it out with chains. The fatal accident happened while trying to take out the second.

“There were a lot of other men who were also similarly exposed to risk,” Ms Carter said.

Kim said she and Alan’s dad Alan senior, aged 51, “went to pieces” when they were told of their son’s death.

“Nothing prepared me for the pain I felt. It’s like walking round with a permanent knife in your heart,” she said.

“Alan’s death changed me. I can’t believe someone can go to work and never come home again. Alan junior’s birth seemed to make it worse.

“It’s cruel enough that we’ve lost Alan, without a little innocent boy never seeing his dad.”

Paul Verrico, representing DavyMarkham, said the company was sorry over Alan’s death, adding that the incident was an “isolated lapse”.

Magistrates decided to send the case to Sheffield Crown Court for sentencing as they believed their powers were insufficient. Chairman of the bench Trevor Griffiths said: “No planning or risk assessment had been organised – what happened was a trial and error method. The company didn’t manage the situation.”

Duncan Hay, DavyMarkham’s acting chairman, said: “We now await the outcome of the court case and will, of course, comply with any ruling made.”