world : Causeway Council fined £75k over binman's death

world : Causeway Council fined £75k over binman's death
world : Causeway Council fined £75k over binman's death

Friday 14 June 2024 10:30 PM

Nafeza 2 world - Causeway Coast and Glens Council has been fined £75,000 over the death of an agency worker who was struck by a bin lorry.

John Winton, 51, who was from the Limavady area, died after an incident in Mount Eden in November 2018.

The council had initially faced three health and safety offences in connection with the death.

Last month, its chief executive David Jackson, acting on behalf of the council, entered a guilty plea to one of the charges - that of failing to ensure, so far as was reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of an employee.

Mr Winton was one of three men working as part of a refuse collection team.

The driver, who was a member of council staff, was with Mr Winton and a third man, who were both agency staff and were collecting the bins.

The refuse lorry was reversing at six miles per hour when it struck Mr Winton as he crossed the road behind it.

During an hour-long sentencing hearing at Antrim Crown Court, Judge Rose Anne McCormick KC said that from the evidence put before her the death of Mr Winton was "foreseeable".

Judge McCormick said Mr Winton had started his refuse collection work nine weeks before his death and his colleague had begun three weeks before that. They were working alongside an experienced driver.

In her ruling, Judge McCormick made clear that a reversing manoeuvre should not have been carried out without a "banksman", a person trained to direct a vehicle.

Neither Mr Winton nor his colleague had had that training.

She said Mr Winton had "walked into a blind spot and that was the very reason for a banksman".

She added that there had been a failure to provide adequate training and instruction to agency staff.

She also said there had been a failure to audit and monitor the impact of working a task-and-finish policy at the council.

At the time of the accident, refuse collection services were operating on a task-and-finish basis, which meant employees could go home as soon as they were finished with that particular bin rota.

The improper use of the policy of task-and finish could encourage workers to work at speed, the judge said, and added this may have contributed to the death of Mr Winton.

The council no longer operate on a task-and-finish basis.

Judge McCormick referred to the numerous victim impact statements given by Mr Winton's family.

He was described by his partner as a "funny, generous and lively man" who was loved by his family.

His son, who identified his father's body, described the ordeal as a "nightmarish experience".

Mr Winton's mother who lives 200 metres from where he died said "she lives with the horror on a nightly basis".

Judge McCormick said the fine imposed on the council should not be seen as "a crude evaluation of John Winton's life".

She said a fine on the council would impact services and rates bills - pointing out that it was a cruel irony that the ratepayers were also the family members of Mr Winton who were sitting in the court.

The Public Prosecution Service (PPS) said it worked closely with the Health and Safety Executive for Northern Ireland (HSENI) to build a “robust” prosecution case.

Senior public prosecutor Michael McDaid said the case's outcome "must serve as a stark warning to employers to implement comprehensive health and safety measures".

"Mr Winton was a much-loved father who is sorely missed by his family and all those who knew him,” Mr McDaid said.

He added that this case “demonstrates the devastating consequences that arise when the correct protocols are not in place”.

During a hearing in May, a lawyer acting on behalf of the council told the judge that the council "wish to apologise publicly for the circumstances that led to this tragic death".

He added there were "a number of complex issues in this case" but believed the guilty plea was a welcome development for Mr Winton's family, albeit, he said, they "may find it somewhat belated".

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