Dock worker crushed to death under 30 tonnes of brown rice

The weight of the brown rice smothered John Burns at Garston Docks, Liverpool. The man, who was working for Hooper Transport at the site, suffered blunt force injuries to his chest.

Associated British Ports Holdings Ltd has now been fined £1.8 million as a result of the accident after pleading guilty to multiple health and safety failings. 

Mr Burns, along with three other drivers, was transporting rice from a container ship to a storage shed at the docks on October 25, 2015.

But Mr Burns’ vehicle did not exit the shed, reports Liverpool Echo, and a search was undertaken at the site. 

His vehicle was found at full height and the load had been deposited, however, the employee was subsequently found underneath the 30 tonnes of rice.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE), which investigated the accident, said Mr Burns “suffered significant leg injuries, blunt force chest injuries, and mechanical asphyxia”.

The HSE investigation found Associated British Ports Holdings Ltd had failed in their duty to carry out a suitable and sufficient risk assessment or put in place appropriate control measures, including failure to maintain the hold to run actuator, which would have prevented drivers exiting their vehicles and therefore remain out of the way of the tipping load.

They were also found to have failed to “adequately supervise and monitor the tipping process”.

Associated British Ports Holdings Ltd of Aldwych House, Aldwych, central London pleaded guilty to breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974.

The company was also ordered to pay costs of £31,694.42 at a court case on October 8 in Liverpool.

Following this investigation, a case against another defendant is next due to be heard at Liverpool Magistrates’ Court on June 6, 2022.

HSE inspector Bradley Wigglesworth said: “This was a horrific incident, and our thoughts remain with Mr Burns’ family.

“Those in control of the work have a responsibility to devise safe methods of working, adequately supervise and monitor work activity and provide the necessary information and instruction to workers in safe systems of working.

“If a suitable safe system of work had been in place prior to the incident, then this tragic incident could have been prevented.

“Companies should be aware that HSE will not hesitate to take appropriate enforcement action against those that fall below the required standards.”

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