Luton-based F&R Cawley have been found guilty of two health and safety offences in the wake of an incident in 2014 when employee, driver Peter Coleman died in an incident in Watford.
The incident took place on Watford borough council land so the prosecution was brought by the local authority.
Mr Coleman had arrived at the borough’s Woodside leisure centre at 6.07am on Saturday 11 October to collection commercial waste from the premises on the site. The local authority noted that he was “working alone in the dark and at 6.10am when operating a bin lift the vehicle began to roll away because the safety mechanism designed to stop the bin lift operating when the vehicle was in drive had been bypassed and the brakes were defective. Whilst desperately attempting to regain control and stop the runaway vehicle, Peter was struck and died of his injuries.”
Following an initial Police investigation, the case was passed to Watford borough council as the enforcing authority for health and safety on the leisure premises. After pleading not guilty at a hearing on 16 December 2020, at Peterborough Crown Court, F&R Cawley Ltd were found guilty of two offences under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974:
· Count 1: for failing to do everything they should have to stop Peter being exposed to the risk of death or injury whilst at work.
· Count 2: for not doing everything they should have to stop other people who may be in the vicinity such as members of the public and first responders from being exposed to the risk of death or injury whilst at work.
Sentencing will take place on 26 February 2021.
Mr Coleman’s family said: “Pete was a devoted family man who had a lot to live for, he always worked hard whatever the job. His life was worth so much more than the trivial amount it would have cost Cawley’s to repair the vehicle, and make it safe and roadworthy.
“He fought hard to survive the torturous incident, and although it has taken a long time, justice has been served. Thank you to everyone who helped Pete in his time of need.”
The elected Mayor of Watford, Peter Taylor said: “This was a devastating incident. Peter Coleman’s tragic death could have been prevented. F&R Cawley Ltd from Luton were found guilty of serious failures in relation to their duty not to expose their employee, Peter, and members of the public to the risk of serious injury or death.
“We welcome this result and hope it brings some closure to Peter’s family, now that we have an understanding of how the tragic incident occurred which could and should have been avoided.”
Justine Hoy, head of community protection for Watford borough council, said: “Following a police investigation, a coroner’s inquest and our own detailed investigation, we proceeded with this prosecution against F&R Cawley Ltd based on evidence indicating serious issues with the condition of Peter’s vehicle and the practices of the company.”
Ms Hoy continued: “As a regulator for health and safety, Watford borough council has a duty to act where a company is putting people at risk, whether it’s the people it employs or members of the public. We are committed to taking action wherever and whenever it is necessary and we hope that this case will help to prevent other deaths in the future
“The decision of the court will not bring Peter back, and our thoughts remain with his wife Beverley and their two children, Lisa and Paul.”
“We take our responsibilities for our employees, their families and the local community very seriously”
A spokesperson for F&R Cawleys said: “This was a tragic incident and the company has offered its deepest condolences to Peter Coleman’s family. We take our responsibilities for our employees, their families and the local community very seriously.
“The transport and waste industries are highly regulated, and we rigorously follow all safety procedures and guidelines laid out by the governing bodies.”