Huge Fine For Aeronautics Firm Over Worker Death

Airbus Prosecuted Over Workplace Fatality


Dave Grimshaw, Press Officer | 0114 274 4397

Aircraft maker Airbus has been prosecuted over the death of one of its workers, who was killed when he became trapped between a tractor and a fertiliser spreader at its site in Broughton, north Wales.

The company was investigated by the HSE after 62-year old Donny Williams was killed in November 2011. The watchdog found that he and his co-workers had not been given any training in the use of the equipment.

Mr Williams, who worked in the company's maintenance department, had been servicing the fleet of vehicles at the site when he was asked to fit a fertiliser spreader to the back of a tractor, as part of a trial that involved putting granulated de-ice on the plant's runway.

He asked a colleague to help by starting the tractor and pulling a lever in its cab. As he did so the fellow worker saw Mr Williams cry out and realised he was trapped between the back of the tractor and the spreader. Although they managed to release him, he died soon after reaching hospital.

Not only were the workers untrained in the driving, maintenance or attaching of equipment to tractors, but they also had a poor understanding of tractor controls. The firm was found to have no safe system of carrying out the work and no risk assessment had been carried out. In addition, none of the staff knew how the controls worked or knew that an operator's manual was present in it.

This catalogue of failings prompted Airbus to plead guilty at Mold Crown Court to a breach of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. It was fined £200,000 and ordered to pay costs of £58,891.

Commenting on the case, HSE inspector Barbara Francis said: “Mr Williams’ tragic death was entirely avoidable if Airbus had taken simple precautions to ensure the safety of its workers."

She added: "Employers must make sure staff have proper training and information to carry out their work safely. Potentially dangerous jobs must be properly assessed for risks to avoid similar tragedies in the future."

HSE guidance on using tractors safely includes reading the instruction manual and knowing enough about the vehicle's operation among the safety checks people should undertake before using it.

Expert Opinion
This is a tragic case that seemingly could have easily been avoided if simple precautions were in place to ensure the safety of employees working with heavy machinery. Through our work, we see far too many people seriously injured or killed through accidents at work caused by the failings of their employers.

"Health and safety should always be the main priority in the workplace and it is crucial the correct training is provided to employees and risks are properly assessed ahead of tasks so similar tragedies are avoided in the future."
Stephen Nye, Partner