Death of an employee who was crushed by a vehicle supported on bottle jacks

A commercial vehicle repair firm and its Managing Director have been sentenced following the death of an employee who was crushed by a bus. Cambridge Crown Court heard how the employee was working in a vehicle inspection pit beneath a single decker bus at the company’s premises. The rear of the bus had been raised off the ground and was supported on two bottle jacks, so that work could be carried out on the brakes. The coach fell from the jacks onto the employee, killing him instantly.

Investigation by the HSE found A D Hurst and Son Commercial Limited failed to plan and organise the lifting of the bus in a manner that ensured the safety of their workers. The coach was inadequately supported, using only two hydraulic bottle jacks. It should have been supported so that it could not have fallen, using axle stands or other appropriate equipment.

A D Hurst and Son Commercial Limited of 35 Baptist Road, Upwell, Cambridgeshire, pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2 (1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and were fined £50,000 and ordered to pay costs of £22,282. Company director, Alan Hurst, pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2 (1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and received a custodial sentence of six months in prison suspended for 18 months.

HSE Inspector Paul Unwin commented: “This tragic incident led to the avoidable death of a much-loved family man. His death could easily have been prevented if his employer had acted to identify and manage the risks involved, and to put a safe system of work in place.” He went on to say; “Employers should make sure that they properly assess and apply effective control measures to minimise the risk from dangerous work activities.”

Speaking after the hearing, the family of fatally injured employee said: “Our whole family has been devastated by the loss of our much loved and treasured David, our hearts are broken, and our lives changed forever. We hope that this case will help to raise awareness that such tragic incidents and loss of life are totally avoidable and completely unnecessary, so that no other family has to go through the pain and devastation that we have to deal with. David was an amazing person and we miss him every day.”

NOTE: In any Motor Vehicle Repair workshop it is very likely that vehicle jacks might be used. Vehicle jacks are only intended to raise the vehicle; so that adequate support measures can then be placed under the raised vehicle; i.e. the use of suitable axle stands or similar. It is dangerous to work under any vehicle that is solely supported on vehicle jacks.
 
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Authors: Ernie Taylor

Published: 10 Mar 2019

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