Belfast Telegraph

Worker crushed to death by skip could have been saved by £150 safety plate, court hears

BY CHRIS KILPATRICK

A father-of-two crushed to death at work could have been saved if his council employer had heeded safety advice and installed equipment costing just £150, a court has been told.

Alan Devenney was crushed to death in 2011 at the recycling and waste disposal depot where he worked.

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 Mr Devenney.

It emerged in court yesterday that an email was circulated to all councils in Northern Ireland in 2008 by the Health and Safety Executive recommending the installation of backplates to prevent skips slipping when lifted.

The equipment was designed to ensure a hook used to lift the skip onto the lorry was properly attached to the container.

No councils took any action at the time, it was alleged in court.

Mr Devenney was killed after the skip was raised when the hook had not properly attached, causing it to slide off the back of the lorry. The plates are now widely used by councils across the country and cost just £150 each.

The court was told Coleraine Council had subsequently invested £3,000 on the plates as well as installing cameras in the cabs of refuse vehicles.

Antrim Crown Court was also told Coleraine Borough Council carried out an internal risk assessment on the site in January 2011 which highlighted potential dangers posed by the lifting of skips at the yard.

"If measures had been in place, this fatal accident would not have happened," a prosecuting lawyer said.

A defence lawyer said: "Coleraine Borough Council have asked me again to express to the family this was a terrible tragedy which could have been avoided."

He added: "The council is deeply and unreservedly sorry.

"It's crystal clear the devastating impact this tragedy has had on the Devenney family. It has had a profound and lasting impact on council staff.

"The death of Mr Devenney was felt at every level of council and continues to reverberate to this day."

The hearing was told Mr Devenney was standing behind the lorry at the time just prior to the accident on June 22, 2011.

The court was told that when the driver heard the noise of the skip slipping he moved the vehicle forward causing the entire skip to fall.

The council's chief executive Roger Wilson appeared in the dock at Antrim Crown Court again yesterday.

Last month he pleaded guilty on behalf of the council to three breaches of health and safety law. Mr Wilson pleaded guilty 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.

Sentencing was adjourned.

BACKGROUND

Father-of-two, 39-year-old Alan Devenney, was killed after being crushed at a council-run recycling and waste facility where he had worked since 2007.

He and his wife Gayle and their children Andrew and Rachel had been due to fly to Spain on holiday the following day.

The chief executive of Coleraine Borough Council pleaded guilty on behalf of the council to three safety breaches which led to Mr Devenney's death.

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