North West Firm Guilty Of Health And Safety Breaches After Man Killed In Forklift Truck Accident

Expert Lawyers Help Family Of Tragic 25-Year-Old In Battle For Justice

23.11.2012

The devastated mum of a young engineer crushed when a half-tonne pressing machine fell on him says she hopes her son’s tragic case provides a wake-up call for other employers after the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found Applied Fusion Limited guilty of breaching safety regulations.

Her call, backed by expert lawyers at law firm Irwin Mitchell’s Manchester office representing her, follows the successful prosecution of St Helen’s based company

Applied Fusion at a trial today at Minshull Street Crown Court in Manchester regarding the horrific death of 25-year-old Bruce Dempsey, killed when the machine fell from a moving forklift truck in December 2009.

The HSE said Bruce’s employers had breached Section 2 of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, which had been an important factor in the young man’s death. His Honour Judge Lever adjourned the case before sentencing pending further information regarding the firm’s finances. However, the judge indicated that the fine was likely to be substantial. 

An inquest at Bolton Coroners’ Court in February 2012 found that Bruce’s death was a tragic accident in which he suffered a fractured skull when the half-tonne steel pressing machine fell off a forklift truck as it drove up a ramp in the workshop.

Experts said the load would not have fallen off if it had been strapped on safely, prompting coroner Jennifer Leeming to contact the HSE to call for a formal review industry-wide of training for forklift truck drivers, banksmen and other workmen who come into contact with them.

Keith Cundall, a specialist serious injury lawyer at Irwin Mitchell’s Manchester office representing Bruce’s family, said: “After going through the inquest earlier this year, the HSE prosecution was another big milestone for Bruce’s family in their battle for justice.

“Bruce went to work that day expecting that his employers would do all they could to keep him safe. They didn’t, and the tragic consequences of that are there for everyone to see now.

“His family will have to live with that forever but are determined that his death should serve as a warning to all other employers that safety in the workplace isn’t an option - it’s essential. This incident could have been avoided if his employers had carried out an adequate risk assessment and provided appropriate training for its forklift truck drivers.”

Provisional figures from the HSE show that 173 people have been killed in workplace accidents in 2011/12.*

Keith added: “Every one of these deaths is a tragedy and one too many. Each time there is a death or someone is seriously injured in the workplace, it has a massive impact on their families and friends.  I hope the verdict is a wake-up call for other employers and reinforces the fact health and safety regulations in the workplace are there to prevent injury and devastating deaths like Bruce’s.

“Hopefully, alongside his family and the HSE, we have held the company accountable and can help prevent this happening again in future. Everyone has the right to go to work and come home safely at the end of the day.”

During the HSE prosecution, at which no representative of Applied Fusion attended, it was revealed the firm’s risk assessment and training records were inadequate and more could have been done to prevent accidents involving fork lift trucks. 

The forklift truck involved in Bruce’s accident was also found to be faulty. It was discovered that although the firm had an employee who was in charge of health and safety at the firm he advised that he had never visited the site in Patricroft, Eccles, where the accident took place. 

Almost three years on from the accident, Bruce’s mum Jeanette Letham, who also has two younger sons, Jack, 20, and 17-year-old Carl, is still distraught at losing her eldest son.

Jeanette, from Eccles, said: “Bruce was a fantastic son and his family and friends still miss him so much. The inquest and now the HSE prosecution have been really difficult for us to cope with, especially as we now know that Applied Fusion could have taken better care of Bruce and prevented his death.

“I’m angry and frustrated but we are relieved the investigation is over and I feel some sense of closure knowing that we have done all we can to show how important health and safety at work is.

“Other businesses should remember what happened to Bruce and realise they have their employees lives in their hands. I hope it helps to prevent other families losing their son or daughter in accidents like this.”