Sheffield Steel Company Case Study

HASTAM consultants were involved in giving expert advice to a Sheffield steel company in May 2015 following the death of a 42-year-old worker. The incident happened in December 2012 when the worker, a visiting delivery driver, was killed when he was knocked off his lorry during the unloading of three-tonnes of steel tubes. A trained but relatively inexperienced forklift truck driver started to lift the steel tubes, but the forks’ reach was too short so when they were raised, the bundles became unstable and struck the driver. He was pushed off the trailer onto the pavement and was hit and fatally wounded by the bundles of steel tubes as they crashed down on top of him.

The charges

The steel company were initially charged with failing to ensure (i) the safety of their own employees and (ii) the safety of non-employees and members of the public.

Our involvement

  • Assessing the adequacy of HSE’s investigation, including ascertaining whether the criminal standard that ‘all reasonable lines of enquiry’ had been followed;
  • Assessing whether HSE’s own investigation procedure had been properly followed;
  • Identifying and confirming whether or not other duty holders had discharged their respective duties;
  • Advising on the suitability of whether a particular type of forklift truck was suitable for purpose;
  • Providing an objective assessment of whether the risk assessments produced by the various parties were ‘suitable and sufficient’.
  • Assessing whether the HSE’s expert was impartial and objective in their evidence.

The result

Skillful advocacy presented the mitigating factors and the fine was at the lower end of the possible range of punishments.

What difference did we make?

Early involvement of the HASTAM expert assisted the client in assessing the strength of their defence case and helped to identify the factors that mitigated their culpability.

Mark is a commercial expert, rather than an “Ivory Tower” consultant. His experience in industry means that he appreciates practical realities. Mark’s opinions are also backed up by evidence/guidance and he does not make assertions that he is incapable of supporting. Dr Cooper’s report was challenged by the HSE and yet he did not have to retreat on any of the points because his initial report had been robust. A key benefit for us in instructing Mark was that he has very recent experience of training HSE Inspectors. This makes it difficult for the HSE to criticise his expertise and it also allows Mark to see both sides of the fence. Mark was very good with the client and the turnaround time on his reports/re-drafts have been exceptional. Mark has been a pleasure to work with.

– Joanne Witheford – Solicitor

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