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Tuesday, 21 October 2014

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Cumbrian oil firm fined after worker falls from top of tanker

A company has been fined nearly £10,000 over an accident which experts say could have killed the worker involved.

The employee – 39-year-old David Strong – plunged 10ft from the top of a tanker on to a concrete floor, sustaining a broken arm, Carlisle Magistrates’ Court heard.

Mr Strong, 39, had just returned to Wallace Oils depot at Langwathby following his morning deliveries and he climbed onto the vehicle, which had no guard rail, to use a dipstick to check the remaining fuel level.

But he lost his balance and tumbled to the ground.

The accident happened, the court heard, even though specialist equipment was available that allows drivers to empty the remaining fuel before refilling tankers.

But a Health and Safety Executive investigation found that it was common practice for drivers to clamber onto vehicles because that was easier than emptying them.

Carrs Billington Agriculture Ltd, which trades as Wallace Oils, was prosecuted by the HSE following the November 12, 2012 accident.

The firm failed to properly assess the risk that employees would check the fuel in this way and failed to provide instructions on how they carry out the work safely.

Mr Strong was trained to use dipsticks by another driver and no one had ever told him not to use this method.

Since the accident, the court was told, the company has made clear in its procedures and training that any remaining fuel should be emptied from tankers when they return to the depot before they are refilled.

Carrs, of Stanwix, Carlisle, was fined £9,330 and told to pay £360 in costs after admitting a breach of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999.

Commenting after the hearing, HSE Inspector Matthew Tinsley said Mr Strong could have died because “the company failed to make sure its employees were safe”.

He said: “The risk of falling from the top of tankers is well-known in the industry.

“Despite this, the company’s failure to assess the risks resulted in workers regularly climbing onto the top of vehicles to check fuel levels before refilling.

“There were several other ways in which this work could have been carried out safely, the simplest being emptying the tank first so workers always started with an empty tank.

“If this working practice had been captured in the company’s procedures and drivers had been adequately instructed and trained at the time of the incident then the employee’s injuries could have been avoided.”

Nobody at the firm’s HQ, in Stanwix, was available for comment.

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