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A haulage company in Aberdeen, Colin Lawson Transport Ltd, has been fined £180,000 after admitting to breaches of health and safety legislation which lead to the death of one of their employees, Graham Forsyth, in 2016. Mr Forsyth was reported to have been sent to repair a lorry in the company’s yard. He was standing behind the vehicle, providing his colleague with directions when the vehicle shunted backward resulting in Mr Forsyth sustaining fatal injuries.

Colin Lawson Transport stated that they did not permit staff to stand behind a vehicle to give directions and they did not provide training on this however other members of staff provided evidence to the court that the practice was something which happened every day in the yard. Where a common practice takes place within a workplace, whether under the direction of management or not, this can be used to establish that an employer should have been aware of a behaviour and ought to have taken reasonable steps to prevent an accident occurring. Had steps been taken to prevent this unsafe practice, accident such as this one are avoidable.

During their admission of their failings, Mr Forsyth’s employers acknowledged that they had failed to adequately risk assess the job being carried out; they had failed to provide the deceased with a safe system of work; and they had failed to provide employees with adequate instructions and training. The failings of Colin Lawson Transport has tragically resulted in an avoidable death of a long serving employee.

The ruling, from Sheriff William Summers at Aberdeen Sheriff Court, was issues a few days prior to International Workers’ Memorial Day 2018 which commemorates those who have lost their lives as a result of an employer’s disregard for health and safety. In 2018, employers should not still be disregarding the health and safety of those who they employ. They should not be failing to carry out risk assessments and they should not be turning a blind eye to common practices which have developed amongst staff. Instead, employees should be able to go to work safe in the knowledge that they will be going home to their families at the end of their shift.

Blog by Eilish Lindsay, Solicitor in Dundee

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