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DHL in court after driver suffers life-changing injuries

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Global courier firm DHL has been sentenced for safety failings after a 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 September 4, 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 prosecuted DHL Express (UK) Ltd at the Old Bailey on January 2.

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.

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.”


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  • Brian Cafferty- Motorman Sales Director - 13/01/2015 11:15

    Inappropriate picture which has clearly not been risk assessed, the DHL aircraft is clearly on a collision course with their vulnerable Sprinter van

  • Reg Willcox - 13/01/2015 11:57

    As sad as this is for the driver, must it always be the responsibility of the employer, for actions carried out by a trained operative. If a driver parks his vehicle in a manner likely is likely to cause risk to him and others, should this not be down to the driver to accept some responsibility. We live in a culture now where people can always blame someone else for accidents that they have been unfortunate to suffer from like parking on a slope for example. Sorry if this is not what people want to hear and I wish him well but was this verdict not common sense here

    • Brian Cafferty - 13/01/2015 16:59

      @Reg Willcox - Here here! Its a poor show when the investigators choose to pick on the gig target company with cash for the taking. It would be interesting to see how many of the participants in this conviction actually know chapter and verse about the HGV vehicle ,its safety systems and correct procedures for i.e demounting trailers.

  • Kevin Atkins - 13/01/2015 13:59

    its a shame to still see and hear about tractor/trailer roll aways. i have done a tremendous amount of work in companies that i ahve worked for along with the IRTE. Its a sad situation where fleet engineers and or transport managers and indeed drivers can't get it right.

  • Nev Lidford - 13/01/2015 16:47

    Whilst nobody deserves to incur such injuries surely it is all employees to risk assess their actions prior to carrying them out. It is common sense that should apply in all such matters so Reg I am with you on this one.

  • David Edmunds - 14/01/2015 11:04

    Sad thou this incident was, if trailers were always parked on the slope, it is perhaps fortunate it had not occurred before. Is there not some culpability upon the driver who unhooked and left the trailer in such a dangerous position?

  • Kevin Atkins - 14/01/2015 13:56

    I might be going over old ground here but the reason for the roll away was due purely for the fact that he apprently did not apply the tractor unit park brake before exiting the cab after coupling up.

    • Graeme - 21/01/2015 15:43

      @Kevin Atkins - Yes, how many drivers would pass their articulated driving test if they did not apply the cab air brake after reversing up to and on to a trailer ??? Assuming we have been given the right info here, that is.

  • David Edmunds - 14/01/2015 14:12

    Why spoil a good story with the omission of crucial deatail! Kevin thank you for the update, it is still profoundly tragic that the man having failed to apply the brakes has a pretty bleak future ahead of him. My thoughts are with him and his dependents

  • marilyn sycamore - 19/01/2015 10:01

    This is a horrific accident and accidents like these we see every day. Unfortunately this gentleman tried to save others from injury and ended up with life changing injuries himself. As this gentleman has experienced recovery can take months and without sufficient suitable rehabilitation being made available may take years.

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