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Company manager jailed for fatal health and safety breaches

9 January 2017

The manager of a small business which hired out a "cherry picker" in an unsafe condition, which collapsed causing the death of one operator, Gary Currie, and serious injury to another, has been jailed for two years for health and safety offences.

Craig Services & Access Ltd was found guilty by a jury at Airdrie Sheriff Court of failing to ensure that those using the cherry picker were not exposed to risks of serious injury or death, by failing to maintain the cherry picker in a safe condition, in consequence of which the fatal accident on 20 July 2012 occurred. In a sentencing statement, Sheriff Simon Collins QC said that "Donald Craig, who on the evidence was at the heart of every decision made in relation to the cherry picker, shares that guilt [of the company]."

The company was also convicted of further charges of failing to maintain the cherry picker in efficient working order and good repair, and failing to ensure the cherry picker was thoroughly inspected at least every six months. Another company, J M Access Solutions Ltd, which had issued a safety certificate in respect of the cherry picker, was found guilty of failing to carry out properly a required "thorough examination".

In his statement Sheriff Collins narrated that in May 2011, main boom 3 of the cherry picker had buckled while in use, for reasons unexplained. Discussions with the manufacturer over liability got nowhere, and the company decided to repair rather than replace the boom. Mr Craig assured a welder undertaking the repair that the picker would in future be used as a short reach machine only, and the repair was carried out on that understanding. He also provided confusing information about the steel composition, as a result of which the repair was not nearly strong enough.

The machine was then hired out on a number of occasions without having been cerfified as safe. One examiner refused a certificate on the ground that the repair had not been approved by the manufacturer. Mr Craig then approached another examiner, John McCallum, the sole employee of J M Access Solutions, giving him deliberately false information about the repair. Mr McCallum did not check the information or carry out a load test, but issued a certificate after a visual inspection of the machine. The fatal accident occurred three months later, when the macnhine had been extended to a height of 30m.

Passing sentence, the sheriff said: "I should emphasise that I have to sentence the companies and Mr Craig for breaches of health and safety law. The sentences I am about to impose cannot and do not attempt to reflect the enormity of Mr Currie’s death, nor the suffering of his loved ones. My powers of sentence are constrained by statute, but also appear constrained by the current status of both companies."

Craig Services was in liquidation, and J M Access had apparently ceased trading. There appeared "no realistic prospect" of fines being paid by either. However fines had to reflect the gravity of the offences, and these would total £61,000 for the former company and £30,000 for the latter.

As for Mr Craig, he "did nothing constructive to nest main boom 3 in main boom 2 [the "short reach" solution], and everything he could to push the cherry picker back into service. That included lying and misleading others, attempting to foist Craig Services’ responsibility for safety onto others, and in fact hiring out the cherry picker".

Sheriff Collins continued: "In doing all that, Mr Craig gambled with the lives of those using the cherry picker, with fatal consequences on 20 July 2012.

"Mr Craig’s breach of duty is so serious, and had such tragic consequences, that I can see no alternative other than a custodial sentence. The maximum custodial sentence I can impose is one of two years’ imprisonment."

Click here to view the full statement.

 


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