The daughter of a lorry driver crushed to death by a 1.4 tonne pallet of tiles is calling for HSE to set clear limits on pallet weights and ensure responsibility for safety across the entire supply chain.
Iulia Pop’s father Petru Pop, 52, was killed as he attempted to unload the pallet of tiles from a tail lift truck at a residential address in High Wycombe in November 2016. He was working for Reason Transport UK - a member of Palletways at the time.
An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that the weight of the pallet was recorded as 1,200 kg but the actual weight of the pallet was in excess of 1,400 kg. The pallet was therefore in excess of the 1,000 kg weight limit set by the pallet network for tail-lift deliveries.
The investigation also found that the driver had worked for the company for two weeks and had not received any training for the safe delivery of pallets using a tail-lift.
Reason Transport UK was fined £5,000 at High Wycombe Magistrates Court last week after pleading guilty to charges in connection with the death of Pop, under section 3 (1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act.
Oxfordshire-based Reason Transport UK, which went into liquidation in 2017, was owned by Alan Reason, who is the MD of Coventry-based Reason Transport Limited, which continues to operate.
Alan Reason, as duty holder, was present at the hearing and Reason Transport UK was represented by Dominic Kay QC.
HSE told MT that the level of fine imposed on Reason Transport UK took into consideration the fact that the company had gone into liquidation in 2017.
Speaking after the hearing, Iulia Pop, 26, a marketing manager from Southampton, said: “HSE have invested heavily in this case and done lab work and used experts to basically reconstruct the whole incident and proved that the delivery could not be done safely using a tail lift truck. But in my opinion they then dropped the ball.
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“How can you prosecute a company for not training a driver correctly but ignore a major contributing factor, which is the weight of the load?
“Reason Transport UK deserved to be prosecuted but the whole supply chain failed my father. Even the judge asked why only Reason Transport was in court. They were not responsible for checking the weight of the load. It was not to their advantage to have such a load. They would have made more money if the load had been split.”
When MT asked why HSE had only prosecuted Reason Transport in connection with Petru Pop’s death, an HSE spokeswoman said: “After looking in great detail at the systems at Palletways, HSE concluded that there was not a material breach and so no action will be taken. The key control failure in this case was inadequate training.”
Pop said she was also shocked and disappointed by the level of the fine, adding: “This is not a deterrent. In fact this only encourages other companies to carry on doing the same thing.”
Pop also raised concerns about the draft guidance on pallet weights, which HSE is preparing to publish, which will require drivers to make a risk assessment at point of delivery.
“How can you expect a driver to make a risk assessment? How can a driver take that responsibility knowing it may cost him his job? Many drivers will not want to be seen as creating a problem, they will be scared for their jobs."
She called for HSE to better regulate the entire supply chain and set clear limits on pallet weights.
“HSE needs to look at safety across the whole of the supply chain and it needs to put clear limits on pallet weights – I think they should be set at 500kg and certainly no more than 700g.
“What my Dad was trying to unload was heavier than some cars. That should never be able to happen again.”