FACK criticises HSE on Glasgow bin tragedy

FACK news release  
FACK questions the HSE’s decision not to investigate Glasgow bin lorry crash as work-related – given the Judicial Review quashing of a similar wrong HSE decision in 2000.

The Health and Safety Executive’s decision not to investigate the Glasgow bin lorry crash as a work–related incident, and to treat it as just a ‘road traffic accident’ was severely questioned in the FAI yesterday:  ‘A safety inspector has denied that a decision to treat the Glasgow bin lorry crash as a road traffic accident was “hasty and ill advised”’ (1)

FACK agrees with Mark Stewart QC that the HSE decision seems ‘hasty and ill-advised’ and is illogical under the Protocol on Work-Related Death and the HSE enforcement policies and aims. The HSE has in fact investigated and prosecuted in other cases of bin lorries killing people,  for example in 2015 (2)  But FACK also wonders whether the HSE has forgotten a similar incident in Manchester in 1997 where the HSE was rebuked for failing to investigate..  In this case, a HSE Inspector refused to investigate the killing by a fork lift truck of a member of the public driving on the highway.  The incident was clearly work-related and a landmark Judicial Review in 2000 quashed HSE’s decision not to investigate and ordered them to do so. (3)

FACK urges the FAI to look into the HSE’s failure to investigate the Glasgow bin lorry incident as a work–related incident  and consider all action that can be taken to remedy this unsatisfactory outcome which has denied the families any justice and also failed to correct problem in workplaces  that may put others at risk. .

Bereaved by Work in the North West run by Greater Manchester Hazards Centre – fore-runner of FACK- took up the case of Omar’s Akhtar’s death in 1997 on behalf  of his family.  A Spokesperson for FACK said:

“ The case of Omar Akhtar and the way it was handled by the HSE and the subsequent Judicial Review decision,  have serious implications for the HSE’s refusal to investigate the Glasgow bin lorry crash.

 “Omar Akhtar, 20, was killed in August 1997 while driving down the one way street in which he lived. A forklift truck emerged from a timber yard with its forks at about 4 feet high, travelling the wrong way, collided and pierced the windscreen causing Omar fatal injuries from which he never recovered. The forklift truck (FLT) was unloading pallets of sand from a lorry for use at the builders yard on the other side of the road. At the time of the incident, the HSE refused to accept that it was their legal duty to investigate and referred the family time and again to Trafford MBC which had responsibility for enforcing health and safety inside the timber yard but Trafford MBC correctly insisted that because the incident happened on a public highway, it was within the remit of the HSE.

“AS in the Glasgow bin lorry crash, the only investigation was that by the police of a minor traffic accident. The driver of the FLT was charged with driving without due care and attention, without a licence and without insurance. For the charge of driving without a licence he was given a six month conditional discharge and three points on his licence, but the other charges were dismissed at trial. The employers, Moores Timber merchants, were also given a conditional discharge over the lack of licence charge.

“Like the Glasgow bin lorry crash, Omar’s death resulted from a work activity – unloading a lorry parked on the public highway – which was inherently risky to both employees and members of the public. There appeared to be a lack of risk assessment and development of safe methods of work, and as such the work was in breach of basic health and safety laws.  Despite this, neither the HSE nor Trafford MBC dealt with the incident as a death due to work. Because there was no proper investigation, no evidence for prosecutions was collected, therefore there was no consideration of a charge of Corporate Manslaughter or Gross Negligence Manslaughter by the Crown Prosecution Service or of any health and safety offences.”

FACK spokesperson added:  “We challenged this decision as wrong and Helen Dolan, solicitor, took a Judicial Review of the HSE’s decision not to investigate on behalf of the Akhtar family, and won!”

The Order by the High Court on 5th April 2000 is as follows:

‘The HSE undertakes to investigate the concerns arising from the Health and Safety at Work legislation consequent upon the fatal accident to Mr. Akhtar on 12/8/97. This investigation to be conducted in accordance with the enforcement policy statement and the principles laid out in the Protocol on Work Related Deaths and the principles of the Health and Safety Executive’s policy HSE 1990/3 and the Guidance to Inspectors on Manslaughter OC165.5, save where these are inconsistent with the previous statement and the protocol. ‘

It is ordered that:

‘The respondent’s (the HSE) decision not to investigate evidence by (the HSE FI) annotated on the file 8/12.97, be removed into this honourable court and be quashed. The respondent (HSE) to pay the applicant’s (the Akhtar family) costs.’ (3)
There was then an investigation which led to a HSE Prosecution, and on conviction Moores Timber Merchants Ltd was fined £100,000  and it’s director fined £5,000  in June 2003 (4)

The Director General of the HSE, Jenny Bacon, and Michael Meacher, Minister responsible for health and safety at the time apologised to the Akhtar family, as did the NW Regional HSE Director.   All HSE inspectors were briefed on this case at the time.

“Families Against Corporate Killers find it very strange that the HSE in Scotland appears to be unaware of this landmark Judicial Review in 2000 over a very similar case.  We believe the decision of the HSE not to investigate the Glasgow bin lorry incident should be reviewed under the Protocol on Work Related Death and all other relevant  enforcement policies and procedures , including the Corporate Manslaughter and Culpable Homicide Act. The families bereaved by this clearly work-related death have been cheated of justice as were the family of Omar Akhtar which was only remedied by winning a Judicial Review in 2000, which is relevant now and on which the HSE should take action.”

For more information: Hilda Palmer Facilitator  of FACK   Tel:  0161 636 7557

Notes to Editors

  1. Glasgow bin lorry crash: Inspector denies ‘hasty’ decision BBC online news, 18 August 2015
  1. High court quashes Health and Safety Executive decision not to investigate work related death holding original decision to be unlawful Centre for Corporate Accountability (CCA)  Press Release 5 April 2000
  1. Timber company and director convicted of health and safety breaches which led to death of Omar Akhtar in 1997 GMHC Press Release 11 June 2003Company Director sentenced today after pleading guilty to health and safety offences which resulted in death CCA  Press Release 12 June  2003

Families Against Corporate Killers, founded in July 2006

Founder Members

Dawn and Paul Adams son Samuel Adams aged 6 killed at Trafford Centre, 10th October 1998
Linzi Herbertsonhusband Andrew Herbertson 29, killed at work in January 1998
Mike and Lynne Hutin son Andrew Hutin 20, killed at work on 8th Nov 2001
Mick & Bet Murphyson Lewis Murphy 18, killed at work on 21st February 2004
Louise Taggart brother Michael Adamson 26, killed at work on 4th August 2005
Linda Whelanson Craig Whelan 23, (and Paul Wakefield) killed at work on 23rd May 2002
Dorothy & Douglas Wrightson Mark Wright 37, killed at work on 13th April 2005

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