Automotive logistics and vehicle recovery firm Ontime Automotive is to pay £100,000 in fines and costs after a worker was crushed to death by the upper deck of a vehicle transporter.

John Wallace was jet washing a twin-deck recovery vehicle at the company’s site in Hayes,  Middlesex in May 2013 when the upper deck collapsed, trapping him.

Winchester-based J&J Conversions, which manufactured the vehicle recovery equipment, was also prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), as the equipment was found to have been poorly designed.

The HSE found that the upper deck was only stable in its raised position if secured by two powered locking pins, and if another device intended to detect the position of the upper deck was incorrectly operated by hand, it was impossible to lower the locking pins into place.

It said J&J Conversions should have used a device that could not be operated by hand to detect the position of the upper deck. It also failed to take appropriate measures to fix the problem on another occasion when the upper deck collapsed when the vehicle was owned by another operator.

The HSE claimed that a limited number of Ontime Automotive employees knew how to operate the device.

Ontime Automotive, based in Waterside Drive, Langley, pleaded guilty to breaching the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 at Southwark Crown Court earlier this month and was fined £50,000 with £50,000 in costs.

J&J Conversions, of St Peter Street, Winchester, also pleaded guilty to breaching health and safety regulations. It was fined £100,000 and must pay £9,490 in costs.

HSE inspector Stephen Kirton said: “This was a tragic and wholly avoidable incident caused by poor design and the failure to control unsafe practices.”