22 January 2020 by James Langley

Vehicle recycler fined after customer death

Carlisle-based auto-salvage company Michael Douglas Autosalvage Ltd has been fined £23,000 and ordered to pay £8,000 in costs after a customer was trapped and fatally crushed loading a lift truck onto his own recovery vehicle in February 2018.

A statement from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) said its investigation into the death of Paul Spence found the company had failed to ensure that the complex lifting process was properly planned by a competent person and that it had failed in its duty not to expose customers to risk.

Paul Spence was trapped and fatally crushed loading a lift truck onto his own recovery vehicle

After pleading guilty to a breach of Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974, the company was handed the fine at Carlisle Crown Court on 17 January.

Sandra Spence, Mr Spence’s widow, said: “Paul was taken too early, in a tragic way, and didn’t deserve his life to end this way.

“There is a big empty hole in my heart, he was a very loving husband and father. Paul always had a smile on his face and lived for his family.”

On its website, Michael Douglas Autosalvage describes itself as one of Cumbria and South West Scotland’s leading vehicle dismantling and recycling specialists.

Lift truck

HSE’s statement said that using Michael Douglas Autosalvage’s skip lorry, Mr Spence lifted a lift truck he had purchased from the company onto a recovery vehicle at Stainton Road in Etterby, a village in Cumbria.

The metal ring on the lift truck to which the winch wire was attached failed, causing the lift truck to fall and trap Mr Spence against the skip lorry.

HSE said a competent person would have identified this loading method with this equipment was fundamentally unsafe.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector Matthew Tinsley said: “This incident could so easily have been avoided should the lift have been properly planned and appropriate equipment and safe working practices been employed as a result.

“Companies should be aware that HSE will not hesitate to take appropriate enforcement action against those that fall below the required standards.”

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