Delivery firm DHL was fined £2 million today following their death of an employee who was crushed to death between a lorry and a wall at their Milton Keynes depot.
The death sparked criticism from a judge who said there was a lack of risk assessment at the company following the “shocking and avoidable accident” which killed the 36-year-old man.
Kryzystof Sontowski was crushed between a lorry and the wall of a docking bay as workers manoeuvred it so that the rear of the vehicle was in in the correct position.
To get it into the exact position the 36-year-old had been jumping up and down on the back of the lorry in an attempt to get the dock leveller, which helps spread the weight of the vehicle, to properly line up.
The shipping company admitted to two breaches of the Health and Safety at Work Act and was today fined by Judge Francis Sheridan, sitting at Aylesbury Crown Court.
Judge Sheridan was critical of the fact that no risk assessments for what to do if the dock leveller was not in place properly.
He said: “Similar problems had occurred in the past and alarm bells should have been ringing.
“That is the central failing in this case. There was no way to deal with situations such as this.”
Police and an air ambulance were called to the depot at Snelshall on the morning of February 26, 2015, but Mr Sontowski was declared dead at the scene as a result of unsurvivable head injuries.
The driver of the lorry which was involved in the accident was rocking it back and forth as his colleague was jumping up and down when he became crushed between the lorry and a wall.
Judge Sheridan said: “Staff at the depot did what they could to help the driver, he is still recovering and still receiving counselling.
“Mr Sontowski jumped up and down on the back of the lorry to release the load.
“The accident occurred because there was no risk assessment done. It was wrong that the system had been allowed to develop.
“The alarm bells really really should have been ringing and not left to staff jumping up and down to right the equipment.
“This was a dreadful and avoidable accident.
“They communicated by looking at mirrors. There was no other way to communicate.”
However, the judge also praised the shipping firm for the fact that it paid all of the funeral costs for Mr Sontowski and allowed his colleagues the time off to go to the funeral.
Judge Sheridan praised DHL for their response to the matters, saying: “DHL have taken this matter extremely seriously and they understand fully their health and safety responsibility.
“This is the first major blot on their record and I hope their last,” he said.
“The company had a good record and has behaved properly to the family.
“They haven’t sought to save the chiefs by shooting the Indians.”
DHL were fined £2 million and ordered to pay £100,000 costs as a number of senior members of the company attended the hearing. The case was taken to court by Milton Keynes Borough Council’s Health and Safety department.
A civil suit brought by the family had been settled out of court.
A spokesman for DHL said today: “DHL takes its responsibilities as an employer extremely seriously. We accept the judge’s findings and the fine handed down.
“Once again we offer our sincere condolences to Mr Sontowski’s family and repeat that the safety of our colleagues and the public remains paramount to the company.”