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Grimsby firm fined after worker's warehouse death

A Grimsby haulage company has been sentenced for safety failings after a worker was killed when a row of steel coils 'collapsed like dominos' trapping him under their five-tonne weight.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) prosecuted ABC (Grimsby) Ltd after Alan Burr, a warehouseman and forklift truck driver, was fatally crushed when he tried to repair some torn packaging on a roll of coil at the firm's warehouse in Henderson Quay, Immingham Docks, on 27 January 2010.

Grimsby Crown Court heard that Mr Burr, a long-serving employee at the company, had been stacking the narrow banded coils on rolls in batches of four or five, with a gap between each coil. Each coil measured five feet in diameter and weighed around one tonne.

As he was standing between two of the rolls to repair the damaged wrapping, one of them toppled, causing a domino effect to the stack. The 52-year-old, from East Halton, Immingham, was trapped under the weight and was pronounced dead at the scene.

The investigation found that the method used by Mr Burr to store the coils was a common one and others had stored them in a similar way. No one from the company had instructed the employees not to do this.

HSE inspector Denise Fotheringham said:

"This was a shocking tragedy and has been devastating for Mr Burr's wife and family. Mr Burr had worked for ABC for more than 20 years; he was simply trying to do a good job and repair a tear in the polythene wrapping but it had these dreadful consequences.

"Narrow banded coils can be unstable when stored on roll end as they can collapse in a domino effect and that, very sadly, is exactly what happened. ABC had been storing this type of steel coil since April 2009 but had given no training to employees about how to handle and store them safely.

"This loss of life could have been avoided if sufficient instruction, training and the provision of inexpensive coil racks - which work on the same simple principle as a toast rack - had been provided by the company."

Mr Burr's wife of 24 years, Mandy, described her loss in a victim statement to the court. She said:

"Losing Alan was one of the worst days I can ever remember. To have someone knock on your door and tell you that the man you love with all your heart will not be coming home again, and then watch your daughter collapse on the floor as she heard the news, is a feeling very hard to describe. I wouldn't wish it on anyone, it's like having your heart squeezed so tightly, you cannot breathe properly.

"Alan and I had planned to grow old together and always be there for each other, but that was taken away in a split second."

ABC (Grimsby) Ltd of Lancaster Approach, North Killingholme, Immingham, pleaded guilty to two charges of breaching the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. The company was fined a total of £25,000 and ordered to pay £20,000 costs.

Notes to editors

  1. The Health and Safety Executive is Britain's national regulator for workplace health and safety. It aims to reduce work-related death, injury and ill health. It does so through research, information and advice; promoting training; new or revised regulations and codes of practice; and working with local authority partners by inspection, investigation and enforcement. www.hse.gov.uk
  2. Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 states: It shall be the duty of every employer to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of all his employees.
  3. Regulation 3(1) of the Management of Health and Safety Regulations 1999 states: Every employer shall make a suitable and sufficient assessment of the risks to the health and safety of his employees to which they are exposed whilst they are at work

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Issued on behalf of the Health and Safety Executive by the Regional News Network

Updated 2012-05-17