Belfast Telegraph

Friday 29 August 2014

I always knew my son wasn't to blame for work accident, says dad after inquest verdict

Gareth Keys was killed when a scissor lift at work toppled over and crushed him

The father of a 27-year-old man who died in a workplace accident has said he always knew that his son was not to blame.

The jury at the inquest of service engineer Gareth Keys found that he had not received proper training or supervision for checking a scissor lift elevating platform at construction plant hire firm Highway Plant Co Ltd in Dunmurry.

Mr Keys, a father-of-two, was on top of the scissor lift as part of a post-hire check when it suddenly toppled over, crushing his spine and chest.

The Belfast man died at Royal Victoria Hospital within an hour of the accident on May 16, 2008.

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 – the elevation drive limit and the oscillating axle valve – and that these defects could and should have been detected during the ground-level check on the fateful day.

Mr Keys' father Billy said last night: "I am pleased with the jury's decision as it confirms my belief that my son was not to blame for this accident.

"Gareth only knew one way to do something and that was the right way.

"The jury further recognised that the two safety defects in the machine also played a part in Gareth's death.

"We always knew Gareth to be very meticulous about every job that he applied himself to do.

"He was a very clever and intelligent young man who was also artistic and well-read and we welcome this finding on behalf of his son and daughter."

Mr Keys added: "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."

A spokeswoman for Highway Plant Co Ltd said yesterday that the company "deeply regretted the tragic accident".

"Our thoughts have been with the Keys family since this tragedy occurred and remain with them.

"The company no longer hires JLG500RTS scissor platforms, having lost confidence in the safety aspect of this machine, and since this tragedy have become aware of at least two other incidents worldwide leading to fatalities arising from the use of this model.

"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."

The jury noted that the faults could have been, and should have been, detected during the post-hire check.

Mr Creighton added: "This is the verdict I had been seeking and I'm glad that justice has been done.

"The case needed good, ordinary common sense and that's what this jury provided."

Gareth, a former student of Royal Belfast Academical Institution, had started his engineering apprenticeship at Harland and Wolff.

STORY SO FAR

Service engineer Gareth Keys died on May 16, 2008 after being injured while checking a hydraulic platform which toppled over, crushing his spine and chest. The 27-year-old Belfast man worked in Highway Plant Co Ltd in Dunmurry, which hires out machinery for use in the construction industry. The inquest into the father-of-two's death – which necessitated a jury decision as the accident happened at work – began on April 29.

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