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Tate & Lyle Fined For Worker's River Death

Fatal Work Accident


Sugar manufacturing giant Tate & Lyle has been fined £270,000 over health and safety breaches after a contract worker drowned in the Thames in a fatal work accident.

Because an access ladder was out of action, Keith Webb was forced to sit in the cab of a digger as it was lowered by crane into the hold of a ship moored at the company's refinery at Silvertown, east London.

But as he was swung between the jetty and vessel, vital chain "lugs" on the vehicle snapped and the 53-year-old and the nine-tonne machine fell, striking the side of the ship and plunging into the fast-flowing river, London's Southwark Crown Court heard.

An inquest jury subsequently returned a verdict of accidental death. The company pleaded guilty to two breaches of health and safety at work regulations.

As his widow, Avril, sat in the public gallery, Judge James Wadsworth, QC, said it was "very clear" father-of-two Mr Webb was "a good workman and a very good husband and family man who is desperately missed".

He said his death on March 2, 2004, was a direct result of the company "failing to discharge its duty". It had not "provided and managed a proper means of access to ships being unloaded", and added that it had also "failed to manage and control its staff properly to prevent being carried in vehicles lifted by crane".

Although there were guidelines in place regarding the use of ladders "the unavoidable conclusion is that the actual practice on the site was that instructions were sometime ignored".

"This is a serious failure of management and supervision for which the company must bear responsibility, and I sentence on that basis."

The judge added Tate & Lyle would also have to pay £90,000 costs.

Copyright © Press Association 2009

David Urpeth from law firm Irwin Mitchell said: “This is a shocking fatal accident at work.

“Falls from height remain a major source of serious and fatal accidents.

“Employers need to carefully assess risks and take steps designed to prevent injury or death in a work accident.”

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