DHL fined £50,000 after driver run over by own vehicle

Logistics giant DHL has been sentenced for safety failings after an HGV driver was run over by his own vehicle at a depot in Bedfordshire.

The 42-year-old, from Leeds, was connecting a trailer to his cab at DHL’s Dunstable depot at the start of his shift in the early hours of 4 September 2012 when the vehicle moved. He was run over after he tripped and fell while trying to reach the cab and stop the vehicle.

Following injuries including five fractures to his pelvis, the man was unable to walk for six months, can no longer drive, as he cannot sit for any length of time, and is receiving treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder. He has been unable to work since.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) prosecuted DHL Express (UK) Ltd at the Old Bailey on 2 January. The company was fined a total of £50,000 and ordered to pay costs of £15,698 after pleading guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.

The court was told the driver had parked on a sloping driveway and left the cab’s engine running. He walked to the rear of the vehicle to connect the trailer to the cab but when he released the trailer’s independent brakes, its weight pushed on the cab, resulting in the whole vehicle moving forward.

He ran to the front of the vehicle but tripped and fell before reaching the driver’s door. The vehicle ran along the length of his right leg and stopped at his waist.

HSE investigators found that the company had failed to assess the risks associated with parking on uneven or sloping ground and, as a result, had not identified and implemented practicable controls or safeguards such as the use of wheel chocks and audible handbrake alarm.

After the case, HSE inspector Emma Page said: “This was a horrific and entirely preventable injury caused by the failure of the company to recognise all hazards arising from routine operations at their depot and their duty to protect the people working there.

“The risk of large goods vehicles moving when parked on sloping ground when the brakes of the trailer are disengaged is foreseeable and referred to in a number of HSE publications. There was therefore no excuse for such a big employer working routinely with vehicles to ignore this risk.”

The case underlines the importance of taking the correct steps, including carrying out and using robust risk assessments, to protect the health and safety of employees, suppliers, customers, members of the public and others, in order to avoid preventable accidents.

Failure to comply could not only result in a potentially serious injury – or worse – but also the costs and reputational damage associated with a prosecution, the additional expense of paying for the HSE’s investigation into the matter and increased insurance premiums.

Haulage sector or other employers seeking clarification or guidance on their health and safety responsibilities or facing prosecution can find out more by contacting Palmers’ health and safety compliance specialist Lara Murray and Jeremy Sirrell, whose legal expertise includes health and safety prosecutions.