April 5th 2000
court quashes Health and Safety Executive decision
not to investigate work related death holding
original decision to be unlawful
High court orders new investigation by HSE into
HSE agrees to undertake investigation with the
assisstence of the police to consider whether
manslaughter offences have taken place
The High court today ordered the HSE today to
undertake an investigation into the death of 20 year
old Mohammed Omar Akhter who was killed on 12 August
1997. [see text of order below]
Immediately prior to the decision, in a climbdown, the
HSE agreed that they would investigate the death.
This decision comes after a 2 year long campaign by
the Manchester based family to get a criminal investigation
into the death. They first officially contacted the
HSE in July 1998 to ask them to investigate. Since then
the HSE has repeatedly refused to intervene.
year old Mohammed Omar Akhter was killed when a forklift
truck, driving out of Moores Timber Merchants in Manchester
struck the car in which he was driving. The forks of
the Fork Lift Truck pierced the windscreen and sliced
into his neck. He died the next day.
After the death, although it was the enforcing authority,
the HSE refused to investigate the conduct of Moores
Timber Merchants and determine whether any health and
safety offences has been committed by the company or
one of its company officers. The HSE's refusal also
meant that there could be no manslaughter investigation
since, at the time, the police would only carry out
such an investigation if the case was referred onto
them by the HSE.
The Health and Safety Executive told that the court
today that the new investigation would be carried out
by a senior officer of the HSE, with no previous connection
with the case. The HSE also agreed that it would be
carried out with the involvement of the police and Trafford
Borough Council and that it would comply with its own
guidance and protocols which require its inspectors
to consider offences of manslaughter, as well as the
commission of health and safety offences.
The Court heard that the HSE was informed of the death
by Trafford Borough Council within forty minutes of
the death taking place. The HSE took no action. Subsequent
to that Trafford Borough Council sent a a 90 page bundle
of evidence relating to the health and safety record
of Moores Timber Merchants. This included a letter from
the Council to the company on 19 May 1997 - just a few
months before the death - setting out how the company
had "contravened" health and safety law in
a number of ways and instructing it to make improvements.
The HSE still took no action.
Ms Barbara Hewson, barrister for the family, told the
court, that their failure to investigate this case was
"incredible", "grotesque" and a
"total dereliction of their duty".
The court that heard that in its evidence to the Select
Committee on Environment Transport and the Regions,
the HSE had said that it "investigated all deaths".
The only investigation into this death was undertaken
by the Road Traffic Police. As a result, the driver
of the Fork Lift Truck and his employer. Moores Timber
Merchants, were convicted for failing to have a driving
license. They both received a six month conditional
Return to Press
Hilda Palmer, Greater Manchester Hazards Centre Tel:
0161 953 4037
Helen Dolan Solicitor, Hugh Potter & Company Tel
0161 237 5888
David Bergman, Centre for Corporate Accountability Tel:
0171 490 4494
Text of Order
The HSE undertakes:
investigate concerns arising from the heath and safety
legislation consequent upon the fatal accident to
Mr Akhter on 12 August 1997, such investigation to
be conducted in accordance with the enforcement Policy
Statement, the principle set out in the Protocol on
work related death and with the principles of the
HSE policy HSEM 1990/3 and the Guidance on Manslaughter
OC 165/5 save where these are inconsistent with the
aforementioned Statement and /or Protocol.
is ordered that:
Respondent's decision not to investigate, evidence
by Mr Gladwells' annotation of 8 December 1997 be
removed into this honourable court and be quashed."
In February, the Select Committee on Environment, Transport
and the Region criticised the HSE:
its investigation policy as being "totally
The HSE only investigates 10% of major injuries
reported to it.
for its "low level of prosecutions".
It only prosecutes companies after 20% of workplace
deaths and after 1% of major injuries reported to
it. Between 1996-1998, it failed to prosecute a
single manager or director in relation to over 500
workplace deaths and and 47,000 major injuries reported