Company fined £450k in driver fatigue case

Industry news | May 2020

Welding company, Renown Consultants Limited, fined £450,000 after two of its fatigued employees died in a car crash and ordered to pay £300,000 in court costs.

Trainee Zac Payne, 20, and Michael Morris, 48, were killed when their vehicle crashed into a parked lorry in a layby on the A1, Newark, on 19 June 2013.

Excessive work hours, driver fell asleep at the wheel
At the time of the crash, Zac Payne had worked for about 26 hours and fallen asleep at the wheel of a work van, while driving back to Doncaster after a night shift in Stevenage. He had driven 300 miles from the firm's Doncaster depot to Alnmouth in Northumberland and back on 18 June, before being sent on the 280-mile round-trip to Stevenage.

truck driver yawning

£750,000 total cost of not managing employee safety
The company was found guilty of 3 health and safety offences: failing to discharge its duty under Sections 2 and 3 of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and regulation 3 of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 and was therefore guilty of an offence contrary to Section 33 of the Act. It was fined £150,000 on each of the three counts.

They were also ordered to pay £300,000 in court costs.

Failings by the company
The sentencing Judge Nigel Godsmark QC, in the case closing remarks May 2020, commented despite the company’s insurance policy stipulating only over 25s may drive their vehicles, it was “common practice” for them to drive to and from jobs.

He said "only lip service" was paid to the implementation of safety measures to ensure that fatigued employees were protected in 2013.

"Senior operations managers cut corners and often expediency often overrode the known safety policies” and there was "wilful blindness” when it came to the management of fatigue, driver time and distances to and from jobs.

He also stated the paperwork relating to fleet-related audits did not tell the full story. “The audits did not shine a light on the way procedures were being applied.”

Ian Prosser, from the Office of Rail and Road, commented on the case “shows the fatal consequences that can occur when fatigue policies are disregarded. We hope this has acted as a reminder to companies that safety comes first and fatigue policies should be enforced to ensure their workforce is not too tired to work.”

Improvements in health and safety
A Fleet Risk Audit is one of the most important tools a company can deploy to identify risk gaps before and after a serious incident. An audit helps to reduce reputation damage by reviewing a fleet’s existing policies, processes and working practices. This in turn provides a current view and risk rating that the business faces in the event of a serious collision and what mitigation can be deployed to reduce risk and improve driver safety.

Since the incident Renown has taken actions to improve driver safety which included:

  • Review and update of its fleet policies and procedures
  • Developed the staff facilities, with the company moving into a new depot which allowed the use of vehicles to be better monitored
  • Speed limiters fitted to vehicles
  • Telematics data checked daily

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