Family's anguish at skip death that was preventable
The family of a father-of-two crushed to death at a council yard where he worked said it was "harrowing" to hear his death could have been avoided if health and safety advice had been acted on.
Alan Devenney was crushed to death in 2011 at the recycling and waste disposal depot where he worked.
His employer, Coleraine Borough Council, was yesterday fined £75,000 for safety failures leading up to the tragedy. An industrial skip weighing 11 tonnes was being loaded on to the back of a lorry at Coleraine Borough Council's Loughanhill facility when it fell on 39-year-old Mr Devenney.
Last month, the council pleaded guilty to three breaches of health and safety law in that the council failed to ensure the health and safety of its staff and the public, and failed to properly organise the running of the site regarding the movement of the public and vehicles.
Following sentencing at Antrim Crown Court yesterday, Mr Devenney's family issued a statement describing his death as "devastating".
"Alan Devenney's wife Gayle and the extended family would like to thank the PSNI and the Health and Safety Executive for their thorough investigation into Alan's accident," it said.
"The family welcome the recommendations of the court who stated that this was an avoidable tragedy had appropriate measures been in place. It was harrowing for the family to hear that by the council's own admission that this accident might not have happened if they had followed health and safety guidance.
"The family acknowledge the council have addressed the criminal charges in a forthright manner and feel that the fine imposed is fair and reasonable."
It emerged in court that an email was circulated to all councils in Northern Ireland in 2008 by health and safety authorities recommending the installation of backplates to prevent skips slipping when lifted. The equipment costs just £150. No councils in Northern Ireland took any action at the time, it was alleged in court.
Mr Devenney was killed after the skip was raised when a hook had not properly attached, causing it to slide off the lorry.
After the accident, Coleraine Council invested £3,000 on the plates and installed cameras in the cabs of refuse vehicles.
"Over two years have passed since Alan's accident and yet the devastating loss is still keenly felt by all the family and in particular Mrs Devenney and her two children. We are therefore delighted that this aspect of the case is at a close." – statement made by family of Alan Devenney