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Skip hire firm boss spared jail over manslaughter of worker

Wolverhampton | News | Published:

A boss of hire firm Bilston Skips has been spared jail after being found guilty of causing the death of one of his workers through gross negligence in a tragedy that had been 'waiting to happen'.

The business was fined £600,000 yesterday when convicted in its absence of corporate manslaughter but has gone into voluntary liquidation and is unlikely to pay.

Bikram Mahli – the 44-year-old site manager – was at the controls of the excavator that either knocked Jagpal 'Jagger' Singh to the ground, or forced him to fall at the firm's yard in Monmore Road, Monmore Green, Wolverhampton.

The 24-year-old victim – a family friend from the same village in India as his boss – was standing in a large 'bin' sorting garden rubbish when he asked for help to flatten the load.

Mahli told Wolverhampton Crown Court during the two-week trial: "Jagger called from above. I could see everything clearly.

"I moved the machine forward, then compressed that bin twice. After that I saw Jagger lying on the ground."

The injured man was helped to the site office by workmates and an ambulance was called but he had suffered catastrophic internal injuries.

Mr Singh, from Bilston Road, Wolverhampton, was taken to New Cross Hospital where he was certified dead less than an hour after the incident on June 28, 2012. One of his lungs had been detached by 'significant blunt force' to the chest, probably when struck by the JCB arm, although the 8ft-high fall from the skip in which he had been working could not be excluded as a cause of the fatal injury.

Mr Michael Burrows QC, prosecuting, revealed: "This was an appalling system of work with nothing to segregate people from moving vehicles. Bikram Mahli should never have moved the arm of the excavator to the skip where he knew the worker was. There was an obvious risk of causing serious injury or death."

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He concluded: "Bilston Skips did nothing to put in place a system to ensure workers' safety. Had there been one this incident could not have occurred."

Mahli, from Yale Road, Willenhall, was found guilty of manslaughter through gross negligence.

He received a two year suspended prison sentence with £10,000 costs and was banned from being a company director for 12 years. He had admitted negligence in failing to ensure the safety of Mr Singh.

Mr Patrick Upward QC, defending, said the four-year wait for the case to be resolved was 'unconscionable,' creating extra stress for father-of-two Mahli and his wife, who has a serious medical condition.

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Judge James Burbidge QC took the delay into account but criticised the 'woeful' failure to separate mechanical diggers from pedestrians at the site. He continued: "It is difficult to see if human life was valued at all at these premises.

"This was an incident waiting to happen but I accept it involved a family friend of the defendant and weighs heavily on him."

The Judge told Mahli: "This was negligence of the gross type and was clearly criminal behaviour."

Detective Sergeant Andy Houston from West Midlands Police Homicide team said: "This is a sad case and should send a message to employers who pay scant regard to the health and safety of their workers.

"We will pursue prosecutions where companies fail to protect their employees adequately."

Health and Safety Executive Inspector Kanwal Kanda said: "This is a tragic incident where a young man lost his life through the complete failure of Bilston Skips and its senior manager, Bikram Mahli, to give any worthwhile attention to the health and safety of workers at the company premises.

"There were simple and achievable measures that could have been taken to prevent collisions between pedestrians and moving machinery or vehicles ? failure to do so, however, put workers at extreme and obvious risk to their safety.

"This case highlights the need for, and the importance of, effective measures to segregate pedestrians from moving vehicles."

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