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Wolverhampton truck firm fined £500k over worker’s death

A truck sales firm has been fined nearly £500,000 for a health and safety breach which contributed to the death of a scrap metal worker at its yard.

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William Price died in February 2013

Self-employed William Price was killed instantly when the half-ton frame of a lorry trailer he was cutting fell on his head at the premises in Wobaston Road, Wolverhampton.

Yard owners ATE Truck & Trailer Sales had admitted failing to make a ‘suitable and sufficient’ risk assessment in respect of the task the 63-year-old had been carrying out.

This week the firm was landed with a £475,000 fine in addition to being told to pay £20,000 prosecution costs.

It has already paid around £100,000 covering its own legal costs, said Mr James Leonard, defending.

Speaking afterwards, Health and Safety Executive Inspector Judith Botwood said: “This tragic accident was preventable had all parties considered the risks involved and taken appropriate measures to reduce that risk.”

ATE, which had a £17 million turnover in 2015, is based next to Junction 2 of the M54. Photo: Google

Wolverhampton Crown Court heard Mr Price had been cutting the superstructure off a curtain-sided trailer to create a flatbed trailer on February 21, 2013.

He was found by an ATE employee lying between the trailer and its roof having suffered fatal injuries. An inquest concluded his death was an accident.

Mr James Puzey, prosecuting, said the firm should have had a written risk assessment for the procedure as it was being carried out on their premises and on a trailer they had bought.

He added Mr Price’s work was ‘essential’ to ATE’s activities as the company sold the resultant flatbed trailers.

In mitigation, Mr Leonard, explained ATE staff had previously cut off trailer roofs using a different method using two men and a sling. He said: “To say there was no risk assessment at all is to go too far.”

The court heard ATE, based at Boundary Industrial Estate, Stafford Road, Fordhouses, had a £17 million turnover in 2015 and a £2.5m gross profit.

Judge Barry Berlin, said: “The requirement of a risk assessment in circumstances like these is not just good practice but a fundamental and mandatory legal requirement.

"This was a plainly hazardous activity.”

Mr Price, born and bred in Bilston before later living in Wednesbury, left behind his wife Angela, daughter Hayley, and granddaughter Sophie. More than 400 people attended his funeral at Bushbury Crematorium.

His daughter, 31, said she hoped the fine would prevent a similar tragedy. “It has been awful. There are so many things we have missed out on.”

James Jenkins, managing director of ATE, said: “Mr Price was extremely well-liked and respected and his death profoundly affected us all.”

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