Huge fine after exhausted welders killed in van crash

Grant Prior 3 years ago
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Welding specialist Renown Consultants Limited has been fined £450,000 with £300,000 costs for failing to ensure that two of its workers were sufficiently rested to work and travel safely.

The aftermath of the tragic crash
The aftermath of the tragic crash

The sentence was passed virtually today by His Honour Judge Godsmark sitting at Nottingham Crown Court today after Renown were found guilty on 19 March 2020 following a prosecution by the Office of Rail and Road.

The sentencing brings to an end a complex case in which Zac Payne, 20, and Michael Morris, 48, died on 19 June 2013 while traveling in a company van back to Doncaster after a night shift in Stevenage.

In the early hours of the morning on the A1 near Claypole their van crashed into a parked articulated lorry.

Ian Prosser, HM Chief Inspector of Railways said: “We welcome the sentence which is the first time that ORR has prosecuted in relation to failures of fatigue management.

“It shows the seriousness with which the court has taken this tragic case, and shows the fatal consequences that can occur when fatigue policies are disregarded.

“We hope this has acted as a reminder to companies that safety comes first and fatigue policies should be enforced to ensure their workforce is not too tired to work.”

ORR’s prior investigation found failures to manage fatigue among the workforce.

The judge found that Payne was driving the van at the time of the incident, despite the company’s insurance policy that stipulated only over 25s may drive their vehicles, and that the company accepted during the trial that under 25s frequently drove company vehicles.

The judge said Renown’s gravest failing was to perform a suitable and sufficient risk assessment on the day before the fatalities, which led to the company failing to comply with its own fatigue management procedures.

It also failed to comply with the working time limits for safety critical work, such as welding and trackside work, which insist there should be a ‘minimum rest period of 12 hours between booking off from a turn of duty to booking on for the next’.

HHJ Godsmark said in his closing remarks: “Operations and managers knew what they were supposed to do in relation to fatigue but lip service was paid to these systems.

“Senior operations cut corners and I found blindness at Doncaster in relation to people driving to and from jobs.

“This failure to take seriously was reflected in [Renown’s] attitude and wilful failure of its no under 25 policy.

“In regard to those breaches to fatigue falling far short…I consider this a serious and systemic failure by Renown.”

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