Hayes Fuels fined over forklift driver's death
One of Northern Ireland's leading fuel operators, and a risk manager were ordered to pay a total of £55,500 in fines and costs surrounding the death of a 49-year-old grandfather over two years ago.
Judge Patricia Symth said that in essence Mr Mark McCarroll's death was the result of the failure to ensure his health and safety which was accepted by Hayes Fuels director Allister Hayes and risk manager Stanley Gibson.
The Belfast Crown court judge said she "acknowledged no sentence the court will pass changes the tragedy that happened on March 27, 2013, but if lessons are learned that will ensure other families does not suffer in this way, that may allow some peace for those most deeply affected".
In all Hayes Fuels were ordered to pay a total of £51,000 in fines and costs for failing to ensure the safety of their employees and failing to ensure the safe storage of materials and objects, while Mr Gibson, who pleaded guilty to two charges arising out of Hayes company failures, was fined £4,000.
Judge Smyth said victim impact reports on Mr McCarroll, a loving husband and father, revealed the tragic loss of a much-loved man and respected employee and while the case might lessen the burden of those involved in his death, she accepted there will never be closure for his family.
The judge said that there were no aggravating features in the case and it was accepted it did not involved gross breaches of the health and safety legislation.
Stanley Gibson, she added, was a man of exemplary professional standing of 25 years experience, 10 of which were spent with the Health and Safety Executive, and was never the subject of any complaint.
The company, which also accepted its responsibilities, had co-operated fully with the investigation into the tragedy. Since then Hayes Fuels had implemented new health and safety measures at a cost of £200,000.
The court had heard that Mr McCarroll, who suffered chest and other crushing injuries, died in hospital two days after the accident at the Hayes company Ballyutoag Road depot in north Belfast.
Last month prosecution lawyer Kate McKay described how Mr McCarroll was working as a fork lift driver and was helping HGV driver Brian Wilshaw load his lorry with mixed coals and briquettes.
"The full pallets needed by Mr Wilshaw were still in the shed and while he was engaged in gathering loose briquettes from this area, Mr McCarroll was standing on the slack pallet counting the bales.
"Mr McCarroll pulled a bale out and had time to set this on the ground at which stage two pallet stacks fell on top of him.
"Mr Wilshaw shouted a warning but Mr McCarroll was unable to avoid being hit.''
Brett Lockhart QC for Stanley Gibson told Judge Smyth: "I have read the victim impact statement and I want to publicly state just how devastated my client is that he has been in any way associated with or responsible for the tragic accident.
"You cannot read those statements without recognising the impact this has had on his family.
"This has been absolutely devastating for my client. This is the first time has found himself in court.
"He has absolutely no criminal record. His record in his field of work over 25 years has been truly exemplary.
"He identified the problem on the premises but accepts he didn't not take the next step and complete his audit.''
Defence barrister Ronan Daly for Hayes Fuels said that on behalf of the company and Allister Hayes he wanted to "express their sincere apologies to the McCarroll family''.