A costly collision has resulted in three companies being given six-figure fines after a driver was crushed between a reversing HGV and a forklift truck in a warehouse beside Heathrow Airport.
An employee of Davies Turner Air Cargo Limited was collecting a consignment from Airworld Airlines Limited’s site at the X2 Hatton Cross Centre, which is alongside the airport, in August 2017.
A vehicle, operated by Saints Transport Limited, which was collecting a consignment from Unilode Aviation Solutions UK Limited, also based at the X2 Hatton Cross Centre, reversed causing the employee to become crushed between the rear of the vehicle and the forklift truck, resulting in serious injuries.
The X2 Hatton Cross Centre is owned by Brixton (Hatton Cross) 1 Limited and is managed by Segro Administration Limited.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) visited the X2 Hatton Cross Centre and an investigation found the site layout did not segregate those working or visiting the site, so far as reasonably practicable, from being struck by moving vehicles.
None of the defendants had taken responsibility for managing traffic and neither did they communicate, co-operate or co-ordinate with one another.
Segro Administration Limited, of New Burlington Place, London pleaded guilty to breaching the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 Section 3(1). Airworld Airlines Limited, of High Street, Sunninghill, Ascot, and Unilode Aviation Solutions UK Limited, of Hatton Cross Centre, Heathrow, Middlesex, both pleaded guilty to breaches of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 Sections 2(1) and 3(1).
Segro Administration Limited was fined £320,000 and ordered to pay costs of £17,584, Airworld Airlines Limited was fined £120,000 and ordered to pay costs of £17,605, and Unilode Aviation Solutions UK Limited was fined £110,000 and ordered to pay costs of £10,878 at Southwark Crown Court on 1 November 2022.
Following the guilty pleas, the prosecution reconsidered the charges laid against Brixton (Hatton Cross) 1 Limited, Saints Transport Limited and Davies Turner Air Cargo Limited, and determined that it was no longer in the public interest to continue with their cases. The prosecution offered no evidence, and these defendants were found not guilty.
“This incident was entirely avoidable. Workplace transport incidents fatally injure 50 workers in Great Britain a year, with 5,000 other incidents resulting in serious personal injury.
“Where reasonably practicable, reversing manoeuvres should be avoided and pedestrians and moving vehicles segregated.
“Where businesses share a workplace, as in this case, they should ensure that there are systems in place for sufficient communication, co-operation and co-ordination so that others are aware of the risks arising from their undertaking.”HM Acting Principal Inspector Sarah Pearce
Transport safety guidance
To manage workplace transport effectively, there are three key areas to consider when carrying out your risk assessment:
- safe site (design and activity),
- safe vehicles, and
- safe drivers.
Every site is different and likely to present different hazards and risks. However, a well-designed and maintained site with suitable segregation of vehicles and people will make workplace transport accidents less likely and prevent a costly collision.
The most effective way of ensuring pedestrians and vehicles move safely around a workplace is to provide separate pedestrian and vehicle traffic routes. Where possible, there should also be a one-way system as this will reduce the need for vehicles to reverse and will help pedestrians and drivers.
There should be separate entrances and exits for vehicles and pedestrians, and vision panels should be installed on doors that open onto vehicle traffic routes. Where pedestrian and vehicle traffic routes cross, they should be clearly marked using measures such as dropped kerbs, barriers, deterrent paving etc, to help direct pedestrians to the appropriate crossing points.
Vehicles used in the workplace should be suitable for the purpose for which they are used. You should carefully consider the working environment in which a specific vehicle will be used and the suitability of that vehicle for the people using it. Consulting with those who will use it is a key part of developing a vehicle specification.
The Road Vehicles (Construction and Use) Regulations 1986 set the standard for the design and construction of vehicles used on public roads. Most vehicles used in the workplace should meet this standard, but in some cases, there are specific supply standards for mobile plant (e.g. some lift trucks).
When considering the risks from vehicle manoeuvring, employers must ensure that vehicles have large enough windscreens (with wipers where necessary) and external mirrors to provide an all-round field of vision. It is often worthwhile adding extra mirrors to reduce blind spots for drivers. Side mirrors can allow drivers of larger vehicles to see cyclists and pedestrians alongside their vehicles and can be effective in improving visibility around the vehicle from the driving position. These mirrors are fitted to larger road-going vehicles as standard.
Drivers should not place items in the windscreen area or in the way of mirrors or monitors, where they might impede visibility from the driving position. The area of the windscreen that is kept clear by the wipers should not be obscured, and nor should the side windows. Windows and mirrors will also normally need to be kept clean and in good repair. Dirt or cracks can make windows or mirrors less effective.
Some types of vehicles (such as straddle carriers, large shovel loaders and some large quarry vehicles) often have poor visibility from the cab. Visibility can be poor to the side or front of a vehicle as well as behind and loads on vehicles can severely limit the visibility from the driving position.
Lift trucks and compact dumper vehicles in particular can have difficulty with forward visibility when they are transporting bulky loads. Employers should recognise these risks in their risk assessment and think about ways to minimise them.
Closed-circuit television (CCTV) may help drivers to see clearly behind or around the vehicle. CCTV can cover most blind spots and the cost of fitting CCTV systems has fallen since the technology was first developed. Companies who have fitted CCTV have found that it can reduce the number of reversing accidents, so the systems usually pay for themselves in a few years.
Colour systems can provide a clearer image where there is little contrast (for example, outside on an overcast day). However, black-and-white systems normally provide a better image in lower light or darkness, and usually come with infra-red, which can be more effective than standard cameras at night.
Monitors should have adjustable contrast, brightness and resolution controls to make them useful in the different light conditions in which they will be used. Drivers may need to use a hood to shield any monitor from glare.
If possible, fit the camera for a CCTV system high up in the middle of the vehicle’s rear (one camera), or in the upper corners (two cameras). This will provide a greater field of vision and a better angle for the driver to judge distance and provide. It also keeps the camera clear of dust and spray, and out of the reach of thieves or vandals.
However, CCTV systems do have some limitations which employers should consider:
- If the vehicle leaves a darker area to a more strongly lit area (for example, driving out of a building) the system may need time to adjust to the brightness.
- A dirty lens will make a camera much less effective.
- Drivers may find it difficult to judge heights and distances.
Drivers should not be complacent about safety even with CCTV systems installed. They should be trained in proper use of the equipment and employers have a duty to provide such training and instruction.
Reversing alarms may be drowned out by other noise or may be so common on a busy site that pedestrians do not take any notice. It can also be hard to know exactly where an alarm is coming from, and people who are less able to hear are also at greater risk. Alarms can also disturb nearby residents. However, reversing alarms may be appropriate (based on the risk assessment) but might be most effectively used with other measures, such as warning lights.
Drivers should be competent to operate a vehicle safely and receive appropriate information, instruction and training for the vehicle they use. It is particularly important that younger or less experienced drivers are closely monitored following their training to ensure they work safely.
Training requirements will depend on an individual’s experience and the training they have previously received. Your risk assessment should help decide the level and amount of training a person requires. In general, newly recruited drivers have the greatest training needs but there should also be a programme of reassessment for more experienced drivers.
It is important to assess the information provided by newly appointed drivers, particularly in relation to their training and experience. They should also be monitored on-site, to establish both their actual level of competence and any further training needs.
You should keep a training record for each driver. This will help to ensure the most appropriate person is allocated a particular task and identify those requiring refresher training.
A person’s fitness to drive/operate a vehicle should be judged on an individual basis but the aim is to match the requirements of the task with the fitness and abilities of the driver/operator.
Additional advice on transport safety can be found in the HSE Guide to workplace transport safety (HSG 136, 2014) which is available free on the website.
If you require health and safety advice or support for your business, please contact one of the Jacksons team.