Manchester Firm Fined After Man Killed As Half-Tonne Load Falls From Forklift Truck

Specialist Work Place Injury Lawyers Call For Lessons To Be Learnt Following HSE Prosecution

07.02.2013

The family of a young engineer killed in a warehouse accident have joined forces with lawyers from Irwin Mitchell to demand employers learn valuable lessons about the importance of safety in the workplace after the company he worked for was fined.

Welding engineer Bruce Dempsey, from Eccles in Manchester, died from a serious head injury aged 25 on 2 December 2009 when a steel pressing machine fell from a moving forklift truck at Heavey Engineering, now known as Applied Fusion.

Because the company is now in administration, a judge was only able to impose a £1 fine during a hearing at Minshull Street Crown Court in Manchester after a successful Health and Safety Executive (HSE) prosecution found that a safety audit had not been carried by the company to ensure the machinery could be moved safely between workshops.

The firm also failed to inform its own trained engineer responsible for overseeing heavy lifting operations that it was planning to move the machines. The forklift operator who lifted the machinery had attended a one-day driver training course but was not competent to lift any big loads that were not on pallets.

Keith Cundall, a serious injury lawyer at Irwin Mitchell’s Manchester office representing Bruce’s devastated mum Jeanette Letham, who still leaves flowers at his grave every day, said: “After going through the inquest earlier this year, the HSE prosecution was another big milestone for Bruce’s mum in her battle for justice.

“If his employers had carried out an adequate risk assessment and provided appropriate training for forklift truck drivers then this tragic accident could have been avoided. These failings are totally unacceptable and we hope it proves to be a stark reminder to other employers about the importance of health and safety in the work place.”

Figures from the HSE show that 173 people have been killed in workplace accidents in 2011/12 – 12 per cent less than the average number of deaths for the past five years (196).

Keith went on to call for lessons to be learnt to prevent future needless workplace deaths. He said: “Any death in the workplace is extremely tragic but to learn that the death of a loved one could have been avoided is heartbreaking. We hope that the prosecution and subsequent decision to fine the company where Bruce worked will go some way to providing justice for his family.

“It is now absolutely essential that lessons are learnt and future deaths or serious injury in the workplace prevented.”

A hearing at Bolton Coroners’ Court last year said 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.

Applied Fusion was found guilty of breaching the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. Experts said the load would not have fallen off the truck if it had been strapped on safely, prompting coroner Jennifer Leeming to contact the HSE to call for a formal review of training for employees.

HSE Inspector Mike Lisle said the machine should have been strapped to the forklift truck and workers told to stay a safe distance away and that ‘Bruce Dempsey sadly lost his life because of failings of his employer. It was important to bring this case to court to raise awareness of this issue so that similar tragic accidents can be prevented from happening again’.

Almost three years on from the accident, Bruce’s mum Jeanette Leatham, who also has two younger sons, Jack, 20, and 17-year-old Carl, says she is still devastated by her son’s death.

She 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 if Heavey Engineering had better health and safety procedures in place the accident which took Bruce from us could have been prevented.

“We are frustrated that the company only received a £1 fine but we are very grateful to the HSE for carrying out the investigation and are relieved that it is now over. I finally feel some sense of closure knowing that we have done all we can to raise awareness of how important health and safety in the workplace 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 loved ones in accidents like this – I wouldn’t want anyone else to go through the ordeal we have.”

Jeanette will be joining this year’s Workers’ Memorial Day march taking place in central Manchester on 28 April 2013, organised with the help of the Hazards Campaign.

If you have lost a loved one due to an accident at work, our serious injury compensation solicitors could help you claim compensation to help get the answers you deserve. For more information visit our fatal accident claims or workplace accident claims page.