Employer fined £20,000 after employee crushed to death at work

hseA Scottish business has been heavily fined by the courts after it was found liable for the death of an elderly employee at work.

Mr Malcolm MacDonald Kennedy, 69, and a retired fitter, worked for Alistair Thomas Corrie, a skip hire business based in Kilmarnock, on a casual basis for approximately eight years until he died in an accident on a firm’s premises on 12 December 2011.

On the day of the fatal accident, Mr Kennedy – who would often be the first worker to arrive at the premises in Kilmarnock – entered the firm’s premises using his own set of keys. It appears – although this was not caught on camera or witnessed by anybody – that the heavy iron gates that Mr Kennedy was unlocking then fell on top of him, trapping and killing him. Mr Kennedy’s body was found an hour later by the next employee to arrive but, although the emergency services were called to the site, attempts to resuscitate Mr Kennedy failed and he was declared dead at the scene.

The Health and Safety Executive was notified of the accident and subsequently investigated. This investigation found that the 180kg iron gates had been installed in 2003 but later rendered defective by unsafe works being untaken on them and, in particular, that the gateposts had been packed with metal washers, which had meant that hinges to the gate could not be securely fitted. The HSE investigation found that this had substantially contributed to the accident and recommended that Alistair Thomas Corrie be prosecuted for breaching the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.

The case came to the Kilmarnock Sheriff Court on 3 November 2014, with Mr Corrie pleading guilty to a breach of s.2 of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. Mr Corrie was fined £20,000 by the court and ordered to pay the costs of the prosecution.

An inspector at the HSE, Lesley Hammond, later gave the following statement: “Employers have a duty to provide and maintain a safe means of access and egress for their employees.  The tragic death of Mr Kennedy could easily have been prevented had the gates been installed and maintained properly.  Unfortunately, this failing led to the loss of Mr Kennedy’s life.”

Chris Hadrill, an employment solicitor at Redmans, commented on the case: “Employers have a duty to take reasonably practicable steps to ensure that the health and safety of their employees is not jeopardised by unsafe practices or equipment in the workplace. In this instance, tit was found that the manner in which the gates to the premises had been installed and maintained rendered the business liable for prosecution.”