Haulage firm faces trial over driver’s death

, by , in Headlines, News

A jury trial has begun at Lerwick Sheriff Court against haulage firm R.S. Henderson of Cullivoe in Yell following the death of a man who worked for the company.

Geoffrey Davies, of Scraefield, Balliasta, Unst, died of serious injuries when the forklift truck he was driving off the back of an R.S. Henderson lorry toppled over at Unst Shellfish Ltd of Baltasound on Saturday 13th February 2010. The crash was witnessed by his 10-year-old son, who ran for help.

The haulage firm is accused of failing to provide – so far as reasonably practicable – the health, safety and wellbeing at work of its employees.

It is charged with failing to minimise risks to health and safety in relation to the collection and delivery of a forklift truck and, in particular, the loading and unloading of the forklift onto a lorry.

The company denies all the charges including  failing to provide information, instruction and training to try to ensure the health and safety at work of Mr Davies.

Evidence began to be taken this afternoon after the jury of 10 men and five women were sworn in.

Giving evidence Baltasound resident Robert Brookes said he had been waved down by Mr Davies’ 10-year-old son shortly after the incident.

Mr Brookes said the “distraught” child had told him he had tried to lift the forklift, but had been unable to move the heavy machinery.

The young boy had then tried knocking on the doors of several houses, but found no-one at home.

Mr Brookes told the court he saw smoke rising from one of the still-turning wheels of the forklift truck, which was rubbing against something.

He said he turned off the engine of the idling lorry, reversed his car back from the scene so the boy could not see the incident and contacted the emergency services.

Police Constable Gary Ross said he saw a flatbed lorry parked across the entrance of the mussel firm, with both its rear ramps down and the forklift on its side with a man underneath it.

Asked by senior procurator fiscal depute at the Crown Office’s health and safety division, Gavin Callaghan, whether he thought Mr Davies was dead he replied: “Yes, as far as I could tell.”

He said he asked Mr Brookes to take Mr Davies’ son back to his [Mr Brookes'] house while an investigation was carried out at the scene.

The officer said he then requested a CID officer to take photographs of the site where the accident had taken place. He said he also requested a special constable.

Earlier, director of Unst Shellfish, David Niven, told the court he had contacted R.S. Henderson to collect and deliver a forklift he had hired from Lerwick firm R.E. Watt at Gremista.

Mr Niven said that on the day of the incident he had received a phonecall from his business partner stating that someone in Baltasound had seen emergency services heading for the Unst Shellfish premises.

Asked whether Mr Davies ever loaded or unloaded plant or heavy machinery at his premises he said: “No. Only on the day in question.”

When further asked if there had been any discussion with the haulage firm over how the forklift truck should have been transported Mr Davies said: “He’s the haulier. It’s not for me to tell him how to do his job.”

The hearing continues.