Amber Engineering (trading as Amber Services) have been fined £112k and ordered to pay costs of £36k after an incident on 25 June 2008 when their employee, Norman Mayne, sustained fatal crush injuries at work. Mr Mayne had been acting as a banksman to guide a lorry collecting a skip in Amber’s yard. After guiding the lorry back, Mr Mayne went on to locate another skip for the next job. However, as the lorry driver loaded the skip it pivoted causing Mr Mayne to be crushed against the skip alongside. The lorry driver, having not realised the incident had happened, clocked off and went home. It was not until colleagues realised that Mr Mayne had not been seen for some time that he was discovered at the end of the shift.
The HSE investigation found that the yard was overcrowded, with no access segregation between pedestrians and vehicles, or skips and waste. The need for all loading and unloading procedures to be properly managed and controlled was highlighted.
Whilst Amber Services admitted a breach of Section 2(1) HSWA, they denied that the breach was causative of Mr Mayne’s death and alleged that Mr Mayne had put himself at risk. However, the Judge was of the view that the company had fallen “substantially short” of acceptable standards. He ultimately accepted the HSE’s submissions that the breach was a significant cause of Mr Mayne’s death and fined Amber Services in line with the Sentencing Guidelines. The Judge applied a discount of ¼ rather than ⅓ to reflect the fact Amber Services had disputed causation.
The fine was particularly significant, as to the year ending 31 August 2011 Amber Engineering reported pre-tax profits of £21,180 against a turnover of £5.6m. The fine of £112k therefore exceeded those profits by more than five times, reflecting the seriousness of the penalty imposed. The Judge did, however, allow payment to be made in three annual instalments with the first payment due on 1 December 2012.
Amber Services had previously received two enforcement notices, an Improvement Notice in 2003 regarding insufficient measures to organise work activities and manage associated site traffic (which was relevant to the prosecution) and a 2002 Prohibition Notice for failures identified under the Working at Height Regulations then in force.