Dying for a Living
On the 16th May 2008 Gareth Keys, a 27 year old father of two went to work and did not come home. Whilst carrying out his duties at Highway Plant Co, in Dunmurry, Northern Ireland he was undertaking a post hirer check on a scissor lift when it collapsed. Gareth was on top of the platform at the sudden collapse caused crush injuries to his spine and chest, he died at the Royal Victoria Hospital within the hour. That was 6 years ago. On Wednesday 7th May a jury found the accident was the result of a failure by his employer to provide proper training or supervision.
His father stated he always knew his son was not to blame for the accident.
“Gareth only knew one way to do something and that was the right way”
Gareth was described as meticulous about his work. The former student of Belfast Royal Academically Institute was described as intelligent, well read and artistic. The Jury found on its closing day on Wednesday that there there were two defects in the machine’s safety mechanism that contributed to Mr Key’s death. These defects would have been found during the ground level check had Gareth received adequate training.
A spokeswoman for Highway Plant Co Ltd said yesterday that the company “deeply regretted the tragic accident”. They also stated
“We believe that safety and training are paramount….the training of Mr Keys was carried out by experienced personnel and HSENI were satisfied with that training.”
Adding “Our thoughts have been with the Keys family since this tragedy occurred and remain with them”.
Of the inquest procedure Mr Keys father Billy said
“This lengthy inquest process was quite intimidating for us as a family as we were faced with a team of six barristers representing his employer and the machine’s manufacturers, while we were represented by our solicitor advocate Sam Creighton, who did a great job on our behalf.”
I will state quite clearly, there are some anomalies between the words and actions of Highway Plant Co. If training and safety were paramount they would have provided correct training to Gareth prior to the beginning of this task. They have a duty of care to provide suitable and sufficient Information Instruction Supervision and training under the
Health and Safety at Work (Northern Ireland) Order 1978
When they failed in this duty, they did not just fail Garth Keys. They failed his two children, they failed his partner, they failed his parents, they failed his wider family and friends and they failed society as a whole. It is a sad fact Highway Plant and the Machines manufacturers compounded the suffering of these people by presenting such a robust defense involving 6 barristers when they clearly knew they had not provided the required training. This effort to move the blame onto the victim and leaving the family without closure is as indefensible as their original decision to give Gareth a task he was not trained for.
It is my deepest hope that the Northern Ireland Health and Safety Excitative prosecute Highway Plant Co to the full extent of their powers, however I do not believe this will be the case. In May 2012 JMW Farms Ltd became the first company to be prosecuted under Coperate Manslaughter Legislation. Under this legislation, companies and organisations can be found guilty as a result of serious management failures resulting in a gross breach of the duty of care. The maximum penalty for this offense is a “unlimited fine” however in practice the fine will be set at a level that will not cause bankruptcy. In short the offending company will be fined what they can afford.
JMW Farms Ltd were fined £187,500 for causing the death of a employee who had told the director the fork lift truck was not suitable for the intended operation and was unsafe. When the employee refused to complete the unsafe task the director took the controls, moved the unsafe load, and dropped it off the forks killing the employee. The employee was right about the task being unsafe, dead right. £187,500 is not a stiff enough penalty for what amounts to murder. Is it ?
There is no provision for incarceration for the offense of killing your workers. Only when this becomes a real possibility will company owners and directors truly become more interested in the lives of the people they employ than profits.
World wide around 90 % of workplace fatalities are male. In the workplace we put more emphasis on measures to remove sexism and insure equality than we do to prevent men dying. Surely there is something wrong with that approach. Keeping accurate data on this is almost impossible so I will provide one source link. If you wish to prove my figure wrong do your own research.
This article is dedicated to Gareth Keys and all other victims of a Workplace Fatality.
We all agreed to work for a living, that is not at issue here. However the whole of society must decide it is time men stopped dying for a living.