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£110,000 fine for Idle firm in crush death tragedy
7:00am Friday 7th September 2012 in News
A Bradford company has been fined £110,000 and ordered to pay £30,000 in costs after it admitted safety failures that led to a 61-year-old worker being crushed to death.
James Murphy died from severe head injuries when a metal racking system, weighing more than a quarter of a tonne, toppled over pinning him underneath.
As he fell, his head hit part of an unguarded wrapping machine only feet away.
Mr Murphy, of School Green Avenue, Thornton , Bradford, had worked for refrigeration company George Barker for nine years.
Yesterday, the company, of Highfield Road, Idle , was sentenced at Bradford Crown Court after pleading guilty in front of magistrates to one charge of failing to discharge its duty under the Health and Safety at Work Act.
Imposing the fine and costs, Judge Colin Burn told the hearing, attended by members of Mr Murphy’s family: “No amount of money, whether by virtue of a fine, compensation or costs, can restore James Murphy to life.
“His death was, and will remain, an avoidable tragedy.”
Mr Murphy was “a conscientious, competent and well-liked colleague” whose death, on December 1, 2009, was no fault of his own, the court was told.
The lack of a formal system to ensure the racks were bolted down after they were moved presented “a very obvious risk of serious consequences”.
The company made a £2.5 million profit in the year of the fatality but that had dropped to below £1m by the following year. Turnover was £50m.
Prosecutor Simon Batiste said Mr Murphy was an electrical sub-assembler with the company that employed a total of 450 staff, 150 of which worked at the factory in Idle.
In mitigation, Harry Vann, barrister for the company, said it was its first breach of the law in the 84 years since it was founded.
“This is a company that sincerely apologises for its failure to meet Health and Safety standards and the loss of James Murphy is a matter of lasting remorse,” he said.
After the case, Mr Murphy’s widow, Susan, said: “I am glad that they have accepted responsibility and I am happy with the outcome.”
Health and Safety Executive, Inspector Morag Irwin, said: “This was a tragedy that was entirely preventable and was devastating for Mr Murphy’s family and, indeed, for the company and what is a close-knit workforce.
“Sadly the case was based on a catalogue of errors on the part of the company. There was no system to manage the racking, no identification of the racks and no inspection regime; no-one had properly looked at the risks of the racking system or how to move it and re-install it safely. People joined in and helped out as and when.
“But most importantly, there was nothing to identify that the racking was not in use – no warning notice or barrier tape. At some point, workers started to fill it. The more it began to fill, the more dangerous it became.
“George Barker now has a system in place and has been very responsive to HSE throughout this process.”