A waste collection company has been ordered to pay almost £2 million today (Thursday, March 11) for the death of a binman, who was killed after being dragged under the wheels of his runaway lorry in Watford in 2014.
Peter Coleman, 54, an experienced binman of 20 years, was killed after attempting to stop his lorry rolling down an embankment at the Woodside Leisure Park in Kingsway.
The father-of-two, from Dunstable, was working alone when the tragic accident occurred and he became trapped under the rear axle of the lorry, which caught fire.
The prosecutor said the risks were entirely preventable.
Luton Crown Court heard that the lorry was found to have two defects – a faulty set of brakes on the second axle, and a mechanism that stopped bins being lifted while the lorry was in gear had been disabled.
Mr Coleman’s employers, the waste collection company F and R Cawley Limited of Covent Garden Close, Luton, were fined £1.5 million at Luton Crown Court, and told to pay prosecution costs of £475,000.
The company had been convicted of two charges of failing to discharge a duty under the Health and Safety at Work Act.
In a tribute statement, his wife Beverley and their children Lisa and Paul said: “Pete was a devoted family man who had a lot to live for. He always worked hard whatever the job. His life was worth so much more than the trivial amount it would have cost Cawley’s to repair the vehicle and make it safe and roadworthy.
“He fought hard to survive the torturous incident, and although it has taken a long time, justice has been served. Thank you to everyone who helped Pete in his time of need.”
One charge related to the company failing to do everything it should, to have stopped him from being exposed to the risk of death or injury at work. The other stated it had not done everything it should to stop other people from being exposed to the risk of death or injury.
At an earlier hearing, prosecutor Vivek D’Cruz said Mr Coleman, who had 20 years experience, became trapped face down with the wheels on his legs and pelvis at around ten past six in the morning on Saturday 11 October 2014.
The prosecutor said the risks were entirely preventable. There were two serious defects: the brakes on the second axle provided no brakes at all and a mechanism that prevented the bin lift from being operated when the vehicle was in gear had been disabled.
Judge Mark Bishop said proper maintenance had not been carried out and the company’s technicians work had not been checked.
“The system was seriously defective. The maintenance system was inadequate.”
The judge said he accepted the company had strengthened its health and safety regime since the tragedy and there have been no further issues. But he said at the time the company’s approach had been: “highly complacent with an abdication of responsibility of a supervisory role in the workshop.
“There was a serious system failure within the defendant’s organisation to address risks to employees and members of the public.”
Cawley’s had two previous convictions. It was fined £100,000 in October 2015 at Luton Crown Court after an employee’s arm was caught in a conveyor belt. In 2009 it had been fined at Luton magistrates’ court when the metal door from a skip fell onto a driver’s head.
Judge Bishop said: “I do not find profit was put before safety, but there was a startling lack of insight into its own failings. The company did not take the health and safety of employees sufficiently seriously.”
The judge praised Mr Coleman’s family, saying: “They have suffered enormous loss and the court extends our deepest condolences to them.
“I pay tribute to their dignity throughout these proceedings. The sentence I pass cannot ever give them back what they have lost.”
F and R Cawley said: “This was a tragic incident and the company has offered its deepest condolences to Peter Coleman’s family. We take our responsibilities for our employees, their families and the local community very seriously.”