Reason Transport UK has been fined £5,000 after pleading guilty to charges in connection with the death of HGV driver Petru Pop.

Pop was crushed to death by a 1.4 tonne pallet of stone tiles he was attempting to unload at a residential address in High Wycombe in November 2016.

High Wycombe Magistrates’ Court heard how, on 23 November 2016, Petru Pop, 52, an agency driver, was carrying out a delivery for Palletways member Reason Transport UK, at Fraser Road, High Wycombe.

The driver was delivering a pallet of stone tiles using a tail-lift and a manual pallet truck. He spent several minutes struggling to lift and manoeuvre the pallet onto the truck’s tail-lift. When he eventually succeeded in doing so, he lost control of the pallet, which fell onto him, causing him to suffer fatal crush injuries.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that the weight of the pallet was recorded as 1.2 tonne but the actual weight of the pallet was in excess of 1.4 tonne.

In a statement, HSE said that the pallet "was therefore in excess of the one tonne 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.

Oxfordshire-based Reason Transport UK Limited pleaded guilty to breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and have been fined £5,000.

Reason Transport UK went into liquidation in 2017. It was owned by Alan Reason, who also owns Coventry-based Reason Transport, which is still trading.

After the hearing, HSE inspector Stephen Faulkner said: “This was a tragic and wholly avoidable incident, caused by the failure of the host company to provide training to this agency worker on the safe delivery of pallets from a vehicle with a tail-lift.

“Transport companies should be aware of the importance of identifying and managing the risks involved with delivering heavy loads and the need to adequately train new staff before undertaking such deliveries.”

Reason Transport said after the hearing that it was the “inaccurate labelling of pallet weights” that was the cause of Pop’s death.

In a statement, Reason Transport said: “The fine announced relates to Oxfordshire-based Reason Transport UK Ltd, which ceased trading in 2017 due to issues with the viability and scale of the delivery areas within the Palletways network.

“This tragic accident was due to the industry-wide issue of inaccurate labelling of pallet weights, leading to the handling of an overweight pallet.

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“Our thoughts are with the driver’s family and we fully support industry wide efforts to ensure that pallet weights are limited and accurately reported throughout the delivery process to protect all drivers in the UK.”

However, Rase Distribution chairman Geoff Hill, who has long campaigned for better regulation of pallet weights, condemned the size of the fine and said it was “an insult” to Pop and his family.

“All I can say is that life must be very cheap and Petru Pop’s family must be very, very aggrieved. That is a paltry amount and an insult to the family.

“However that is not to put the entire blame on Reason Transport. The whole supply chain let down Petru Pop and his family. I think Reason Transport was to an extent, the sacrificial lamb in this case and there have been no consequences whatsoever for the rest of the supply chain at all.”

Hill called for action from the HSE to deliver guidance on pallet weights.

Since 2015 the industry working group, in partnership with the HSE, has been attempting to create industry guidance on pallet weights.

However, despite significant industry concern about the lack of weight limits on pallets designated for tail lift deliveries – particularly to domestic addresses – the industry guidance has yet to be published.

Last year the HSE’s recommendations were passed to the pallet weight working group, which then put together draft guidance. This was passed back for approval to HSE early this year. The HSE has yet to approve the guidance.

Hill added: “The guidelines on the handling of pallet weights need to be published as soon as possible and placed in the public domain so that courts can use these for any similar cases going forward, because this case does not provide any deterrent whatsoever.”

Palletways has been approached for comment.