Safety breach led to death of a lorry driver

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A city lorry driver spent two years in a vegetative state unable to move, talk or swallow after receiving horrific brain injuries in a fall.

Kevin Brookes, 61, tumbled eight feet to the ground while trying to unload his truck single-handed using a ladder that was unsecured,

The safety breach this week resulted in fines totalling £150,000 for his employers.

After a two week trial at St Albans Crown Court, David Watson Transport Ltd was found guilty of failing to properly safeguard workers from falls.

A jury heard Mr Brookes was using a portable ladder to attach a chain for lowering a generator from his lorry in November 2012,

But the ladder slipped and he fell to the ground, suffering such a serious head injury that he was in a coma for four months.

Afterwards he needed constant palliative care in a nursing home, the court heard.

Mr Brookes died in December last year, having never recovered from his injuries.

A jury found Norfolk-based David Watson Transport guilty of three counts of breaching the Work at Height Regulations.

Judge Jonathan Carroll ordered the company to pay the £88,000 costs of the case.

The jury heard how David Watson director Steve Fraser- Brown was responsible for the company’s health and safety procedures.

In evidence Mr Fraser-Brown said it was unrealistic for him to put aside his other tasks and duties to carry out the supervision required for employees working at heights.

The company has since fitted handrail systems to all of its lorries.

But evidence showed they were almost universally ignored and left unused by employees, the court heard.

AN HSE chief has slammed the accident that killed Mr Brookes as “entirely preventable”.

Inspector Sandra Dias said: “The risks of falling from height during unloading lorries is well-known across the industry.

“There is absolutely no excuse for companies to neglect safety.”

Ms Dias said David Watson Transport Ltd had failed to make adequate plans for working at height safety as well as provide adequate supervision.

Mr Brookes’ suffering was “devastating” for his family and friends, she said.