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12 June 2003

Press Note Company Director sentenced today after pleading guilty to health and safety offences which resulted in death

Moores Timber Merchants Ltd was fined a total of £100,000 and its director Michael Broadbent was fined £5,000 at Manchester Crown Court today after they pleaded guilty earlier in the week to health and safety offences which resulted in the death of 20 year Mohammed Omar Akhtar.

Mohammed died on 13th August 1997 when, on the previous day, a forklift truck, driving out of Moores Timber Merchants in Manchester struck his car. The forks of the Fork Lift Truck pierced the windscreen and sliced into his neck.

The only penalty that the courts could impose upon Michael Broadbent is a cash fine – a sentence of imprisonment is not available.

The company is in liquidation.

Judge Lowcock said about the incident::

The absence of safety features was lamentable. It must have been obvious to anyone that there were clear safety hazards at the yard.

Mr Akhtar's death was an accident waiting to happen.

There were no warnings to motorists that forklift trucks were operating in the road. There were no warning marks on the forks that were driven at aboutthe height of a driver's neck.

Changes only made after Mr Akhtar's death. These changes were all obvious and inexpensive measures but came too late to avoid the accident which killed Mr Akhtar."

About the fine he stated:

"The court's sentence must reflect the public anxiety at the unnecessary death of a young man. This was a serious and avoidable lack of safety standards.

Because of your negligence the company failed to carry out its safety obligations which lead to the death of Mr Akhtar.

No penalty I impose can ever remedy the anger felt by Mr Akhtar's family."

The company was ordered to pay costs of £69,300. The judge said that given the state of the company it was unlikely that any fine would ever be paid on their behalf.

The prosecution of both defendants for health and safety offences followed a successful judicial by Omar Akhtar’s family over an earlier decision by the HSE not to investigate the death.

To read about the High Court decision, click here

The company pleaded guilty to a breaches of section 3(1) of the health and safety at work act and breaches of regulation 3(1)(b) of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1992

In relation to section 3(1) of the HASAWA 1974 charge it was alleged in the indictment that the company:

"between the 1st day of January 1995 and 12th day of August 1997, [it] to conduct its undertaking in such a way as to ensure, so far as was reasonably practicable, that person not in its employment were not thereby exposed to risks to their health and safety arising from operations involving the loading and unloading of goods and materials at and outside the company's premises in Shrewsbury Street, Old Trafford, Manchester and the movement of goods and materials between those premises."

In relation to the breach of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations, it was alleged that:

"between the 1st day of January 1995 and 12th day of August 1997, [it] failed to make a suitable and sufficient assessment of the risks to persons not in its employment arising from operations involving the loading and unloading of goods and materials at and outside the company's premises in Shrewsbury Street, Old Trafford, Manchester and the movement of goods and materials between those premises for the purpose of identifying the measures it needed to take to comply with section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974."

Michael Broadbent pleaded guilty to an offence under section 37 of the Health and Safety at Work act which involved proving that the commission of the offence of the company was the result of 'neglect', or 'consent or connivance' on his part.

To see what the HSE said in court, Click Here

The Akhters have been supported by Greater Manchester Hazard Centre. To download GMHC’s press release, click here

The CCA's 'Work Related Death Advice Service" provided assistance to the AKhtar family in relation to the judicial review and the manslaughter inquiry by the police that took place after the judicial review.

Extract from HSE submission in Court, made by Mark Harris, from 3 Raymond Buildings, given on 9th June 2003

"The criticism of the company’s conduct can be summarised as follows:-

1 There is a high risk of an incident between vehicles used in business activities and pedestrians if the two are not segregated. The risk is well known and has been well documented in health and safety literature for many years;
2 Those risks were exacerbated around the premises of Moores’ Timber by matters such as:-
• The road layout,
• The one way system
• The weight of traffic flow
• The size and relative locations of the company’s yards,
• Uncontrolled parking.
3 The company had a duty to manage the health and safety issues arising from its business activities and to ensure that a suitably safe system of work was used and established and that its employees were properly trained to fulfil it;
4 However, the company did not assess, adequately or at all, the risks arising from those activities and in particular did not assess the risks associated with using the fork lift truck on the public highway;
5 Consequently the company did not implement a safe system of work which took into account the locality, the vehicles to be used and the appropriate training of personnel.

In written answers to questions put to him (again in writing) under caution, Mr Broadbent accepted:-

1 that he had been a director of the company since June 1992 and had previously been the General Manager
2 That he spent the majority of his working day at the company’s premises
3 That he had written and signed the health and safety policy document of the company dated 23rd July 1997 in which he stated that:- "The overall and final responsibility for Health and Safety in the company is that of Mr. P.M. Broadbent."

It is the prosecution's case, even if it said that at any point during the indictment period Mr Broadbent did not have exclusive responsibility for health and safety matters, as a director of the company and the senior day-to-day manager of it, he has the responsibility to ensure that the company complied with its statutory obligations and that through his neglect the company failed to do so. That there were reasonably practicable steps that could have been taken to ensure safety is demonstrated by the remedial measures that after the accident."

CCA contact details
: 020 7 490 4494 or 07766 598274


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