A company has been fined £300,000 and ordered to pay costs of £26,000 after one of its drivers was killed by a runaway lorry in Northamptonshire, United Kingdom.

Nightfreight (GB) Limited were hit with the fine and ordered to pay costs after Mr Russell Homer, 44, was killed by the lorry in December 2010. The company was founded in 1984 and specializes in providing express delivery, home delivery and international delivery solutions to a variety of firms. Mr Homer worked as a driver for the company until the incident occurred on 7 December 2010.

On 7 December 2010 Mr Homer was just about to start his night shift at Nightfreight when the incident occurred. He got down from the cabin of his lorry to couple the trailer he was supposed to be hauling to the back of his lorry but as he did so his own vehicle moved off. This resulted in Mr Homer being crushed against an adjacent stationary vehicle. After crushing Mr Homer the vehicle continued to roll down the hill, crashing into a wall.

A Health and Safety Executive investigation was subsequently launched into the incident. The investigation found that the Nightfreight drivers were failing to follow company rules when coupling up vehicles – and that the management had known about this. Further, it was discovered that the Nightfreight drivers were (again with the knowledge of management) leaving their engines running and their handbrakes off while coupling up vehicles. Nightfreight had also failed to take adequate measures to ensure that vehicles on the slope couldn’t roll away – by, for example, flattening the slope or supplying “chocks” for the drivers to use with the vehicles.

A prosecution was commenced by the Health and Safety Executive after these findings and Nightfreight were found guilty of breaching s.2(1) and s.3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 on 7 January 2013. The company had failed to ensure that (so far as was practicable) the health, safety and welfare of its employees was being protected and had also failed to ensure that persons in their employment were not exposed to unreasonable risks. The company was fined £300,000 in total – £270,000 for the breach of s.2(1) and £30,000 for the breach of s.3(1). The company was also ordered to pay the Health and Safety Executive’s costs of the prosecution of £26,000.

Neightfreight did not comment on the judgment but the Health and Safety Executive commented that Mr Homer’s death was “entirely preventable” and that lessons should have been learned from previous incidents at the company and on the same site.

Direct 2 Lawyers offer specialist advice from employment law solicitors and personal injury solicitors.

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