Glasgow City Council fined £20,000 after refuse vehicle death

Glasgow City Council has been fined £20,000 following the death of a pensioner who was struck by one of its refuse vehicles in the city centre.

On Friday (11 April), Glasgow Sheriff Court heard how Malcolm McCulloch, 71, was walking across Holm Street, Glasgow, when he was struck by the reversing lorry on 10 August 2012.

According to the defence, the driver checked his mirrors, turned on the vehicle’s flashing beacon and reversing siren, and reversed down the street while his colleague sat in the passenger seat.

However, neither the driver nor the labourer (whose job it was to empty glass bins) saw McCulloch as he walked out between some parked cars to cross the road.

He was struck by the lorry, fell underneath the vehicle and was dragged some way along the road as the driver continued to reverse, unaware of what had happened.

It was revealed that the driver only saw McCulloch lying in the road when he stopped the vehicle and got out of his cab. The retired dock workerhad suffered severe chest and pelvic injuries and later died in hospital.

Vehicle blind spot

The incident was investigated by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), which found that although there were no defects with the glass-collecting vehicle, which was equipped equipped with a CCTV camera, there was a blindspot 2.2 metres wide not covered by the camera or wing mirrors.  

Accordingly, a reversing assistant should have been used to guide the driver while reversing and to prevent pedestrians from being able to cross the road as the lorry reversed.

The court also heard that the council had in place a programme of reversing assistant training (which involves showing assistants how to stand outside the vehicle and guide the driver ‘in situations where reversing manoeuvres cannot be avoided’), but neither the driver nor the labourer travelling with the driver had undergone the relevant training.

The driver had been employed through an agency, rather than as a direct employee of the council, and had worked on the refuse vehicle since March 2012. The labourer was employed by the council.

As such, HSE prosecuted the council for safety failings, as it had ‘failed to identify’ that its own employee had not received training, and had ‘failed to ensure’ that agency workers had undergone the relevant programme.

Glasgow City Council was fined £20,000 after pleading guilty to breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974, which states that employers have a duty to conduct their undertakings in such a way as to ‘ensure, as far as is reasonably practicable, that persons not in their employment who may be effected thereby are not exposed to risks to their health and safety’.

McCulloch ‘needlessly lost his life’

Speaking after the case, HSE Inspector Eve Macready, said: “It appears the collision resulted from the lorry reversing along Holm Street and Mr McCulloch walking on the road while a lorry was reversing towards him.

“Our investigation has found there was a blind spot for the driver even when using the camera, but if a reversing assistant had been used this would have prevented the incident.

“Reversing vehicles poses one of the biggest hazards in the refuse collection industry and there is plenty of guidance available on how to reduce the risks. The fact that the driver and his colleague had not been trained meant they did not have the skills necessary and were not fully aware of the need to use a reversing assistant – as a result Mr McCulloch has needlessly lost his life.”

Read more about safety issues relating to reversing vehicles.