A Blackburn skip hire firm and its owner have been ordered to pay £80,000 in fines and costs after a 21-year-old worker was crushed to death.
Amin Qabil, from Afghanistan, was using a vehicle called a skid steer loader to move rubbish when the incident happened at Blackburn Skip Hire on August 21, 2010.
The company and its owner, Zarif Mohammed, were prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) after an investigation found the vehicle was unsafe to use and that Qabil had not received any formal training.
Preston Crown Court heard on Tuesday (December 10) that the firm had bought the second-hand skid steer loader at an auction in Doncaster, but had failed to ensure its safety features were working correctly when it used it at its warehouse on the Kensulate Park industrial estate.
The restraint bar had been disabled, which meant the controls could still be operated when no one was sitting in the cab. The minimum engine speed had also been increased, and a fault meant the vehicle could reverse unexpectedly.
Qabil’s body was discovered just after midnight after the owner of a neighbouring business noticed the gates to the site were still open. He had suffered massive rear head injuries.
The HSE investigation concluded that the most likely explanation for his death is that he caught a lever as he climbed out of the cab and was crushed against the vehicle when the bucket on the front was raised.
Blackburn Skip Hire Ltd and Zarif Mohammed both pleaded guilty to single breaches of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998.
Blackburn Skip Hire, of Lower Hollin Bank Street in Blackburn, was fined £60,000 and ordered to pay £19,000 in prosecution costs. Zarif Mohammed, 36, of Leamington Road in Blackburn, was ordered to carry out 160 hours of unpaid community work in the next 12 months and to pay costs of £1,000.
Speaking after the hearing, HSE Inspector Matt Greenly said: “Amin Qabil’s life was brought to an end after he suffered horrific injuries caused by a vehicle that should never have been in use.
“Blackburn Skip Hire should have made sure the skid steer loader it bought at auction was safe to use, and that workers were properly trained. Instead vital safety features had been disabled and lives were put at risk as a result.
“The company and its owner had a legal and moral duty to look after the safety of Mr Qabil, but sadly their failings led to him losing his life.”
The waste and recycling sector has been classified as one of the most dangerous industries in Britain, with a death rate that is 16 times the national average. The latest figures show a total of ten workers lost their lives in the industry in 2012/13.
Information on the safe use of skid steer loaders is available at www.hse.gov.uk/workplacetransport.