North East recycling firm fined after the death of one of its workers

23/03/2009

A North East waste company has been fined £15,000 following the death of one of its workers, struck by a vehicle at a recycling yard on Wearside.

David Liddle was hit by the vehicle as he walked across the yard operated by Alex Smiles Limited in Deptford, Sunderland in December 2007. He died instantly.

The driver, James Johnston had already admitted driving the vehicle by instinct, unable to see in front of him due to the size of the load he was carrying. He is due to be sentenced next month after earlier pleading guilty to manslaughter by gross negligence.

Their employer Alex Smiles appeared at Newcastle Crown Court today, pleading guilty to breaching Health and Safety at Work legislation. The company was also ordered to pay £5,000 towards prosecution costs.

Northumbria Police and the Health and Safety Executive carried out an extensive investigation into the cause of Mr Liddle's death, resulting in the case being passed to the Crown Prosecution Service.

Paul Simpson, CPS Crown Advocate, said following the case: "On the 20th of December, as the country was preparing for the Christmas holiday, David Liddle lost his life. He went to work that morning, but did not return home.

"Johnston drove a 20 tonne truck overloaded in such a way that he could not see in front of him. In his words, he 'drove by instinct'. The consequences that afternoon were catastrophic not only for David Liddle, but also for Johnston.

"The death of David Liddle was a tragic accident that could and should have been avoided. This case highlights a clear message that must be understood by both employers and employees everyone has a duty of care to their friends and colleagues at work."

Dr David Shallow of the Health and Safety Executive, said: "Transport accidents are the second biggest killer of employees at work and it's vital that companies treat site traffic management in the same way they would other workplace systems.

"In this case, there was a clear failure by Alex Smiles to manage site traffic safely and they pleaded guilty to a serious criminal offence."