Skip hire company found guilty of health and safety offences after man crushed to death

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A skip hire company has been found guilty of two health and safety offences after a man was crushed to death while at work.

Stelian Florin Gavriliuc, a 24-year-old Romanian national, died while employed as a temporary worker for skip hire company Ace Waste Haulage in Neasden in August 2017.

The company was convicted following a trial at the Old Bailey which concluded on Friday, 31 January 2020.

A unanimous jury found it guilty of the following:

Firstly, as an employer, of failing to ensure, so far as was reasonably practicable, the health, safety, and welfare of its employees, including Stelian Gavriliuc. The company thereby failed to discharge its duty under Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.

Secondly by failing to organise its site at the Neasden Goods Yard in such a way as to ensure that pedestrians and vehicles could circulate in a safe manner. The company thereby failed to discharge its duty under Regulation 4(1) of the Workplace Health Safety and Welfare Regulations 1992.

The company, which went into liquidation on 11 October 2018, was fined £240,000 for flouting health and safety laws and a further £51,116.29 court costs.

Stelian, a father of one, was crushed to death just two weeks after starting work.

At around 7am on Friday, 25 August 2017, Stelian began his shift at the plant, working on the picking line sorting waste materials.

At approximately 11.50am, he stopped for a lunch break and left the picking station to walk through the processing shed – the only way out of the building.

His colleague, who left just after him, next saw Stelian under the wheels of a shovel loader vehicle and shouted for the driver to stop.

He and the driver immediately began first aid until emergency services arrived. Stelian was taken to hospital where he died from his injuries on Wednesday, 30 August.

A joint investigation carried out by police and the Health and Safety Executive found that Stelian and his colleagues had to walk through a shed where the waste transfer activities were undertaken to reach their work, on breaks and at the end of their shift.

The shed had no clearly defined pedestrian route and those walking through had no way to safely communicate with those operating the machines.

The court also heard that around 18 months before the fatal incident, an unannounced HSE inspection highlighted the unsatisfactory nature of traffic arrangements at the site.

Verbal advice was given by the HSE inspector to consider creating a separate vehicle and pedestrian route to avoid employees having to walk past operating plant and skip vehicles, but this was not acted upon.

Enquiries following Stelian’s death also found that the rear view mirror of the vehicle which ran him over was not in working condition, and that the windows were covered in dust and dirt which restricted visibility.

Acting Detective Chief Inspector Saj Hussain, who led the investigation, said:

“This should be a clear message that workers’ safety must be paramount for any business, and you cannot cut corners when it comes to protecting life.

“There was simply no practical way of ensuring pedestrians did not come within five metres of the vehicles and in this case Stelian was not seen by the driver.

“He had only started work at the site two weeks prior to the incident and should have been entitled to carry out his activities in a safe environment. This was sadly not the case and his family and friends will have to live with the tragic impact of this failure for the rest of their lives.

“This has been a long and complex case and I want to recognise the hard work of Detective Constable Julie Moorhouse, without whose tenacious efforts the case may not have got to court.”