Crane firm ordered to pay £900,000 after worker crushed to death

The scene of the crash
The scene of the crash

A crane hire company has today (Tuesday) been sentenced following a collision on a quarry access road in Edenfield which killed a 49-year-old man from Sowerby Bridge.

Baldwins Crane Hire Limited was fined £700,000 and ordered to pay £200,000 costs at Preston Crown Court following the death of Lindsay Easton on August 15, 2011.

Lindsay Easton

Lindsay Easton

Following a trial in November, the company was found guilty of corporate manslaughter, failing to ensure the safety of its employees and failing to ensure the safety of other persons.

Mr Easton was driving a 130-tonne mobile crane on a road from Scout Moor quarry in Edenfield, near Ramsbottom, when the brake system failed.

The vehicle, travelling on a steep access road, lost control and crashed into an earth bank. The front of the vehicle was crushed, with Mr Easton dying from multiple injuries.

Following the incident an investigation was launched by Lancashire Police, working alongside the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

It was found that several of the wheel brakes were inoperable, worn or contaminated. The engine retarding (braking) systems were also found to be non-functional, disabled or damaged providing only limited braking force.

As part of the investigation, brakes were inspected across the Baldwins fleet with several other cranes found to have significant issues which required immediate work.

Significant failings were also found within the company structure. There was a lack of supervision and recording taking place of organised maintenance work by senior management.

The trial also heard the crane was not Mr Easton’s usual vehicle, having replaced another operator when he took over the site operation.

Det Sgt John McNamara, of Lancashire Police, said: “We welcome today’s sentencing and hope it serves as a reminder to all companies to properly manage and maintain equipment, vehicles and to keep the safety of their employees at the forefront of their responsibilities.

“The brakes on the crane driven by Mr Easton that day were in a shockingly bad state and this was a disaster waiting to happen. Had this happened on a road with more vehicles this incident could have been even more serious than it already was.

“The safety of employees is of utmost importance in the workplace and Baldwins Crane Hire clearly neglected its responsibilities and sadly Mr Easton paid the price.

“Mr Easton’s death was wholly avoidable. Tragically the gross failings of the company management have led to the death of an experienced crane driver who was simply doing his job, causing enduring heartache for his family. I hope the sentence brings some closure for his family during what has been a traumatic and difficult time.

“This was a lengthy and detailed investigation which despite Baldwin’s maintaining their innocence throughout has resulted in the jury returning unanimous guilty verdicts.

“On behalf of the family, the CPS and the investigation team I would like to thank the jury for their consideration, the judge for today’s sentence and the prosecuting counsel Andrew Thomas QC for his expert presentation of the evidence.”

Speaking after the hearing, HSE Inspector Kevin Jones added: “This was a complex investigation involving a high level of collaboration between HSE and Lancashire Police especially in relation to the forensic examination of the crane’s braking systems.

“This joint working with Lancashire Police contributed to bringing this case to a successful conclusion.

“I also wish to pay tribute to the heroic actions of Mr Easton which helped prevent an even greater potential tragedy by his attempt to stop the crane on the run-off lane rather than continuing down the access road and onto the public highway.”

As part of today’s sentencing, Baldwins Crane Hire was also ordered to publicise the incident on its website for six months and put a notice in trade magazine Construction News within three months.