Aeroplane manufacturer Airbus has been fined following the death of an employee who was crushed between a tractor and a fertiliser spreader at the firm’s plant in Broughton.
The company was prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) after an investigation found Donny Williams and his co-workers had received no training on how to work on the equipment when the incident happened on 16 November 2011.
Mold Crown Court heard today (17 July 2014) that the 62-year-old worked in the maintenance department, servicing the fleet of vehicles used by Airbus at the site. He was asked to fit a fertiliser spreader to the back of a tractor as part of a trial to spread granular de-icer onto the plant’s runway.
Mr Williams asked a colleague to help him with this job by starting the tractor and pulling a lever in the tractor cab. As the other worker did this, he heard Mr Williams shout and turned to see him trapped between the tractor’s rear tyre and the spreader. Although his colleagues managed to release him, Mr Williams died shortly after having been taken to hospital.
HSE’s investigation found that fitters in the department had received no training for driving, maintaining or attaching equipment to tractors and lacked understanding of tractor controls.
The company did not have a safe system for attaching equipment to tractors and no risk assessment for the job had been carried out by the company. In addition, none of the fitters knew of the existence of an operator’s manual for the tractor and none of them were familiar with the controls. Instead, they used a “trial and error” approach to find the right operations.
The incident could have been avoided if the well-known “safe-stop” industry practice had been adopted by making sure the hand brake is fully applied, all controls and equipment are in neutral, the engine is stopped and the key is removed.
Airbus Operations Ltd of Aerospace Avenue, Filton, Bristol was fined £200,000 and ordered to pay £58,891 in costs after pleading guilty to a breach of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.
Speaking after the hearing, HSE Inspector Barbara Francis said: “Mr Williams’ tragic death was entirely avoidable if Airbus had taken simple precautions to ensure the safety of its workers.
“He had been allowed to position himself in a dangerous area between the tractor and the spreader carrying out a job that had not been planned properly in advance. Mr Williams and his colleagues had not been trained for the task, and the tractor’s operating manual was not made available to them.
“Employers must make sure staff have proper training and information to carry out their work safely. Potentially dangerous jobs must be properly assessed for risks to avoid similar tragedies in the future.”
Mr William’s widow, Sheila, said: “My husband was a very special man – not just to me but to many people. The accident, which took his life and has changed mine beyond all recognition, should not have happened.
“I can only hope that Airbus has learned from this and that they and all other companies in the country will take great care of the lives of their workers.”