A company director has been jailed for 12 months and ordered to pay £4,000 costs following the death of one of his employees.

Paul Williamson, a 51 year old worker at Thorn Warehousing Ltd, was fatally injured when a Mobile Elevated Working Platform he was loading onto a lorry fell from ramps and crushed him

Company director Kenneth Thelwall was found to have failed in his duty to protect the worker and was charged under the Health and Safety at Work, etc., Act 1974. Thorn Warehousing Ltd was itself also charged under the HSWA 1974. It was fined £166,000 and ordered to pay £10,400 costs. The company is now in administration.

In a separate incident in 2010 a Thorn Warehousing employee was crushed to death in a metal gate.

Insufficient training

The court heard Mr Williamson had not been adequately trained to use the equipment. No risk assessment was in place, nor had a safe system of work been designed.

The ramps were not secured to the lorry and their gradient was above the manufacturer’s specification. The MEWP toppled off the ramps as it was loaded onto the lorry.

Sentencing Mr Thelwall to 12 months in prison, the judge told him “Two men have now tragically died in the workplace at a time when you were the sole director of the company. You have shown your intention to never again be a director of a company, but you may change your mind so I disqualify you from being a director of a company for seven years”.

HSE inspector Helen Jones said “Kenneth Thelwall failed in his duty as a director to protect his workers. He was involved in the day-to-day running of Thorn Warehousing Ltd and should have ensured the company provided Paul Williamson with the right equipment and training to carry out his job. Had he done so Mr Williamson would still be alive today”.

Summary

This case provides a blunt reminder to company directors of their duty to protect employees.

Contact Ellis Whittam to make sure you are meeting your responsibilities.

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