A Kent businessman has been given a suspended prison sentence for supplying unsafe plant equipment, which was involved in a fatal incident. Guildford Crown Court heard landscape gardener Ken Pinkerton, 47, hired a one-tonne skip loader and a mini-digger from Brian Beavis, who traded as Heavy Plant Repairs.
Mr Pinkerton hired the equipment after being contracted to build a retaining wall at a house in Reigate, Surrey. On 28 September 2011, he was driving the mini-digger when it overturned on uneven ground in the garden of the house. He then used the skip loader to try to upright the digger, but while he was operating the vehicle it slipped backwards and reversed over some garden waste and overturned. He was thrown from the cab and the machine landed on top of him, causing fatal crush injuries.
The HSE investigated the incident and found a number of defects on the skip loader. There was no seat belt installed, the roll-over protection bar couldn’t be operated as a bolt was missing, and the engine cover, which was positioned under the driver’s seat, was not secured.
The investigation also learned that Beavis had supplied the machines without providing any user information. The HSE subsequently visited Heavy Plant Repairs’ depot in Canterbury and found defects on other pant equipment. In October 2011, a Prohibition Notice was issued to Beavis, which required him to ensure all plant equipment was in a safe condition.
HSE inspector Amanda Huff said: “Brian Beavis could have prevented the incident by making sure that the skip loader was properly maintained and safe. Skip loaders are at risk of rolling when they are used on uneven ground. Had the machine had a working seat belt and functioning roll-over protection, it is probable Mr Pinkerton would have survived the crash.”
Beavis appeared in court on 8 March and pleaded guilty to breaching s6(1)(a) of the HSWA 1974, for failing to ensure the equipment was supplied in a safe condition. He was given a nine-month prison sentence, suspended for a year, and ordered to pay £10,000 in compensation to Mr Pinkerton’s partner.