busA major bus company has been fined after one of its employees died after being crushed at a bus garage in Uxbridge, Hillingdon.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) prosecuted Centrewest London Buses Ltd – part of the First Group based at Macmillan House, Paddington Station in Westminster – for safety failings leading up to the incident on 18 May 2004.

The company pleaded guilty of breaching section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 on 16 December, at Southwark Crown Court. Today Centrewest London Buses Ltd was fined £400,000. Costs are yet to be determined at a separate hearing.

The court heard that Robert Cherry, 59, from Ruislip, was preparing one of the buses at the station in Uxbridge Bus Garage in Bakers Court. As he stepped in between two parked buses, the front bus lurched backwards, crushing him against the rear, stationary vehicle. He died at the scene.

The HSE investigation showed that traffic management at the garage was poor, particularly when buses left the garage at the start of the working day. The garage had originally been designed to hold 65 buses, but at the time of Mr Cherry’s death it was the base for 119 vehicles. The garage was not well lit and drivers carrying out checks were forced to walk between closely parked buses that were manoeuvring to leave the garage.

The bus that struck Mr Cherry also had a defective gear selector that may have meant it was in a different gear to that indicated in the driver’s cab. Checks carried out on similar buses after Mr Cherry’s death revealed that four others based at Uxbridge had similar problems. A check at the company’s other garages in London showed that 10 out of 60 buses were significantly faulty and a further 30 per cent suffered from more minor faults.

HSE inspector, Bill Hazleton said:

“Robert Cherry died because his employer did not do enough to ensure his safety or that of his colleagues. He was a much loved family member who was killed while going about his daily work.

“Like so many workplace accidents, this one was entirely preventable and should never have happened.

“The company’s traffic management system was poor and its processes for maintaining vehicles and for identifying and repairing defects were inadequate.”