Bus Firm Sentenced Over Death Of Employee

Crush Death Tragedy Leads To Bus Firm Prosecution


A tragic death at a bus depot in Walsall has led to the prosecution of transport firm West Midlands Travel.

The incident occurred at the company's depot in Carl Street, where Lee Baker, a 24-year-old assistant mechanic, was working in the small hours of October 22nd, 2001.

He and a colleague had been trying to move a double-decker bus to get access to a pit, but were unable to get the reverse gear on the vehicle to work. They tried to push it into position instead, passing by a single-decker bus.

In an attempt to free the bus up Mr Baker tried to put the gearbox in neutral but put it in drive instead.

However, as he got off the parking brake should have engaged automatically as the doors were open. Instead, it disengaged and the bus rolled towards Mr Baker and his colleague. The other man was able to get out of the way in time, but Mr Baker was not and was crushed against the other bus.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Investigation (HSE) found that no supervisor was on duty at the premises when the work was carried out, while no risk assessment had taken place. It also found employees had not been trained in a safe system of work and the firm allowed workers to push buses during night shifts. The alternative of using a recovery tow vehicle was available to the company, but only supervisors had been briefed about this.

These failings led to Mr Baker having to try to work out on his own how to carry out the task - with tragic results.

West Midlands Travel pleaded guilty at Wolverhampton Crown Court to one breach of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, plus one breach of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.

The company has now implemented a series of new protocols to prevent a repeat incident, but HSE inspector Eve-Marie Edwards, speaking after the hearing, said: "It is a pity a young man, who should have had his whole life ahead of him, had to die in what was an avoidable incident for that to happen."

Expert Opinion
This is an incredibly worrying accident at work and one which highlights very serious concerns for transport and travel firms to bear in mind in the future. Like so many of the cases we are involved in, this incident demonstrates why health and safety needs to be the priority in all workplaces.

"The only way high standards can be maintained is through the use of the correct supervision, as well as the provision of the right level of training for workers. Other issues which must be considered include the use of risk assessments, to ensure any potential dangers are always carefully examined prior to any work taking place.

"The terrible circumstances of this case should not be repeated in the future."
Stephen Nye, Partner