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Baldwins ordered to pay £900k for manslaughter

3 Jan 16 Baldwins Crane Hire Ltd has been fined £700,000 plus costs after being found guilty of corporate manslaughter and health and safety offences.

Three of the auxiliary braking systems had been disconnected and the fourth was damaged
Three of the auxiliary braking systems had been disconnected and the fourth was damaged

The sentence was handed down at Preston Crown Court on 22nd December 2015, three weeks after the company had been found guilty.

Baldwins was also ordered to pay a further £200,000 to cover prosecution costs and half of the Health & Safety Executive's costs.

The conviction followed the death of employee Lindsay Easton in 2011, who was killed when the brakes failed on his 500-tonne class mobile crane.  At the time of his death, Mr Easton was driving the eight-axle vehicle down an access road to Scout Moor quarry and wind farm in Edenfield, Lancashire.  The crane had been brought to the site to replace another crane that had broken down.

Following an investigation the crash was found to have been caused by serious problems with the braking system of the crane, which had not been properly maintained. The crane was fitted with four separate auxiliary braking systems in addition to the ordinary footbrake. Three of the auxiliary braking systems had been disconnected altogether and the fourth was damaged. There were also serious faults with the main braking system, with no operable brakes at all on seven wheels and faults or excessive wear to the remaining nine.  Baldwins Crane Hire Ltd was found to be responsible for these failings.

The trial heard that Baldwins’ maintenance regime had widespread failings, revealing “a complete disregard for the safety of their employees”. (See previous report here.)

A spokesperson for the Crown Prosecution Service said: "The company had a duty of care to its employees to maintain the crane to ensure it was safe and roadworthy. This hadn't happened. The jury also found that the company had put other road users at risk due to poor maintenance of its vehicles.

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"Following further investigations of the company's fleet several cranes were found to have faults with their brakes or other operating systems.  Had the company serviced and maintained the vehicles, this accident would never have happened. Mr Easton put his safety in the hands of his employer and they failed him."

Baldwins chairman Richard Baldwin said after the prosecution: “The company unreservedly apologises to the family and friends of Mr Lindsay Easton for the circumstances culminating in his death. The company have worked tirelessly to ensure that a similar accident cannot happen again.

He said: “The charges in the prosecution case related to the inspection, maintenance and repair regime in place prior to the accident in August 2011. After the accident the company were served with an improvement notice by the HSE, which required the braking systems on every crane in the fleet to be thoroughly inspected and reported upon. The company took the decision for those inspections to be carried out by the manufacturers and by January 2012 the whole fleet had been the subject of an inspection and report, such that the HSE were prepared to confirm the notice had been complied with.

“The inspection, maintenance and repair regime has been scrutinised by the HSE after the accident in order to comply with a further improvement notice. The system was then further scrutinised by independent auditing bodies including, an engineering insurance specialist, to ensure compliance against the CPA Best Practice Guide for Maintenance, Inspection and Thorough Examination of Mobile Cranes. The company has since also achieved the UKAS accreditation for its quality management systems and processes.”

He said: “The company is confident that its fleet of cranes is safe and is committed to ensuring that remains the case in order to guarantee the safety of its employees and the public in the future.”

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