Family slam firm’s £82k bill as ‘rubbish’ after worker crushed to death

The scene after Alan Winters was cut free and taken to hospital.  He had been trapped between the roll-over cage on the forklift truck and the roof of the container, seen behind the removed crate.
The scene after Alan Winters was cut free and taken to hospital. He had been trapped between the roll-over cage on the forklift truck and the roof of the container, seen behind the removed crate.
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A SHEFFIELD engineering firm has been fined £33,333 with £49,247 costs after a worker was crushed to death by a forklift truck.

The family of dad-to-be Alan Winters slammed the sentence as ‘a load of rubbish’ after fleeing the courtroom in tears when the judgement was read out.

The 28-year-old employee at Davy Markham in Darnall was killed when a group of workers tried to remove a five-tonne crate from a massive shipping container using a forklift truck.

Alan - who died six weeks before the birth of his first son, Alan Junior - was standing on the back of the truck attempting to unhook a chain from the container.

Sheffield Crown Court was told that truck driver Steven Burgin’s foot slipped on the accelerator when Alan asked him to reverse. The vehicle suddenly shot back, crushing Alan between its roll cage and the container’s lid.

Davy Markham admitted failing to ensure its employees’ health and safety on the day of the accident three years ago - but the judge, Recorder Neil Clark, said the health and safety breach didn’t directly cause Alan’s death.

Alan’s mum Kim, aged 52, was left distraught by the judgement, calling the fine ‘a load of rubbish’.

Craig Hassall, prosecuting, said the container arrived at the warehouse on Prince of Wales Road on July 15, 2008, bearing sealed crates holding two pieces of lifting equipment that had been loaned to a business in India.

It had been sent out in an open-topped container, rather than the closed shipping container it was returned in.

“The company wasn’t used to receiving goods in closed-top containers,” Mr Hassall said. “This meant the company had to try a number of different methods to remove it.”

The workers managed to drag the first crate out, but this wasn’t suitable for the second box, he told the court.

“The crate was at the back and the truck was too tall to fit inside the container,” he said. “A decision was taken to lift the rear of the container, to place it at a slight angle so gravity would assist.” Mr Hassall said the employees decided to unhook the front two chains from the container. Alan managed to remove the chain on the left and stood on the truck to unhook the right-hand chain.

“The forklift driver said Mr Winters asked him to reverse back so he could reach the other hook. This startled Mr Burgin, and his foot slipped on to the accelerator. The truck reversed at high speed. Mr Winters was trapped in a horizontal position.”

Alan died from his injuries later the same day at the Northern General Hospital. He had just moved into a new house on Greenwood Avenue, Littledale, with pregnant girlfriend Laurie Swift when the tragedy happened.

A risk assessment hadn’t been prepared before the container’s arrival, the court heard.

David Travers QC, defending, said a member of staff only started to write an assessment while the crates were being removed.

“This accident had a shocking effect on everyone at the site. Every effort has been made to ensure this doesn’t happen again,” he said.

Every risk assessment at the warehouse now has to be signed off before a job starts, he added.

Mr Travers said Alan was a ‘popular and valued employee’ who was known by ‘pretty much everyone’ at Davy Markham, which was bought for £9m last year by Indian company Hindustan Dorr-Oliver.

Recorder Clark said: “I’m not here to sentence for causing the death of Mr Winters. These breaches were not directly causative of his death - the cause was his position on the truck and the way the truck reversed.

“No sentence could ever bring him back.”

Duncan Hay, acting chairman of Davy Markham, said: “The judge acknowledged that Davy Markham was not directly responsible for the death of Alan Winters and not only had an exemplary record, but had introduced and implemented every recommendation of the Health and Safety Executive.

“Nonetheless, this was a tragic incident and our thoughts are still very much with Alan Winters’s family.”