Global courier firm DHL has been sentenced for safety failings after an HGV driver was run over by his own vehicle at a depot in Bedfordshire.
The 42-year-old, from Leeds, was connecting a trailer to his cab at DHL Express (UK) Ltd’s Dunstable depot at the start of his shift at around 2am on 4 September 2012, when the vehicle moved. He was run over after he tripped and fell while attempting to catch up with the cab to stop it hitting and injuring a pedestrian or nearby property.
The worker, who does not wish to be named, suffered life-changing injuries including five fractures to his pelvis. He was unable to walk for six months, can no longer drive as he cannot sit for any length of time, and has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, for which he is still receiving treatment. He has been unable to work since.
The incident was investigated by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), which today (2 January) prosecuted DHL Express (UK) Ltd at the Old Bailey.
The court heard that the driver reversed his cab unit up to the trailer to recouple them. The driver parked on a sloping driveway off Boscombe Road in Dunstable and left the cab’s engine running. He walked to the rear of the vehicle to connect the trailer to the cab. But it was when he released the trailer’s independent brakes that the weight of the trailer pushing on the cab caused the whole vehicle to move forward.
He ran down the length of the vehicle to the front but tripped and fell before reaching the driver’s door. The vehicle ran along the length of his right leg and stopped at his waist.
HSE’s investigation revealed that the company had failed to assess the risks associated with parking on uneven or sloping ground and, as a result, had not identified and implemented practicable controls or safeguards such as the use of wheel chocks and audible handbrake alarm.
DHL, registered at Great South West Road, Hounslow, was fined a total of £50,000 and ordered to pay costs of £15,698 after pleading guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.
After the case, HSE Inspector Emma Page said:
“This was a horrific and entirely preventable injury caused by the failure of the company to recognise all hazards arising from routine operations at their depot and their duty to protect the people working there.
“The risk of large goods vehicles moving when parked on sloping ground when the brakes of the trailer are disengaged is foreseeable and referred to in a number of HSE publications. There was therefore no excuse for such a big employer working routinely with vehicles to ignore this risk.”