Company fined £75,000 following fatal coupling incident

A dairy farm has been ordered to pay over £110,000 in fines and costs after a worker was crushed by a truck during a coupling operation on a slope.

Shunter driver Paul Davidson was fatally injured when the vehicle rolled downhill and struck him at J&B Woodcock & Sons’ Chorley, Lancashire base in March 2012.

He had reversed a tractor unit in preparation to couple it to a parked trailer of empty milk containers, which had been parked on a slope leading towards the dairy loading bay.

Once he coupled the trailer and tractor unit together, he manually depressed the shunt valve on the nearside of the trailer. He then released its parking brake and the combination began to roll.

The truck jack-knifed and crashed into another trailer parked in the loading bay. Davidson was struck and later died on the way to hospital as a result of his injuries.

On 19 November, Liverpool Crown Court was told that J&B Woodcock & Sons had not carried out a sufficient risk assessment for the coupling and uncoupling of trailers, which would have identified the risks associated with carrying out such operations on a slope.

The partnership, of Yew Tree House Farm, Coppull Hall Lane, Chorley, pleaded guilty to breaching health and safety regulations following an investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

The business, which has an O-licence authorising 44 vehicles and 16 trailers across two sites in Chorley and Skelmersdale, was fined £75,000 and must pay £35,424 in costs.

HSE inspector Phil Redman said after the hearing: “Hauliers and site operators should ensure areas where coupling and uncoupling take place are well lit, firm and level.  

“It is foreseeable that a shunter driver may inadvertently leave the tractor unit parking brake off, and unfortunately there have been many instances of tractor and semi-trailer combinations running away during coupling and uncoupling, when this has occurred the consequences have sometimes been tragic.”

Slough aims to cut NOx with low emissions strategy

HGVs travelling through Slough could be forced to clean up their act after the council said it had been given government money to cut transport emissions.

Although an official announcement has not been made, the funding award and plan were contained in a recent impact assessment report looking into an M4 widening scheme.

The Berkshire town’s council said it had secured funding from Defra to develop a low emission strategy, which will be published in spring 2016.

It said: “The strategy is aimed at reducing NOx emissions from road transport in the borough. The objective is to comply with NO2 limits by 2020, 10 years after we should be complying with the EU limits.”

A council spokeswoman told it was putting together a strategy and that a public consultation would follow in January. Despite many towns and cities investigating the potential of low emissions zones, only London has a working zone that affects commercial vehicles.

The West Sussex village of Storrington is using four ANPR cameras to generate data that will determine whether it launches such a zone.