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Poor maintenance checks result in death at Heathrow

02 February 2010

An airport services company has been fined £90,000 after a man was crushed to death under a vehicle at Heathrow Airport in 2008. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) prosecuted Aviance UK, which is based in Grey Street, Newcastle upon Tyne, for its role in the incident.

Poor maintenance checks result in death at Heathrow airport
Poor maintenance checks result in death at Heathrow airport

The company pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act etc. 1974, at the City of London Magistrates' Court, on 27 November 2009.

Aviance UK was fined £90,000 and ordered to pay costs of £18,800 at the Old Bailey.
The court heard that on 25 March 2008, Mohammed Taj, a vehicle maintenance specialist was repairing a defective baggage tug, which had broken down near Heathrow Airport's Terminal 1 with an electrical fault and a hydraulic oil leak.

The worker had placed the vehicle on a trolley jack so he could carry out maintenance from underneath the vehicle. The tug was raised 60cm but no supports were used to hold it in place. While he was underneath the vehicle, the jack jolted backwards and the tug fell on top of him. He died at the scene as a result of serious head injuries.

The HSE investigation showed that the maintenance van supplied by Aviance UK routinely carried a trolley-jack but never carried axle stands or other means of support which should be used.
Aviance UK did not have an adequate system for ensuring that the maintenance van returned to the workshop for axle stands, or that defective vehicles were recovered and proper vehicle hoists used.

HSE inspector, Stephen Kirton said: "Mr Taj's tragic death could have been avoided if axle stands were routinely carried in the company maintenance van and were used by staff. Mr Taj could be alive today if just £30 had been spent on a pair of axle stands.

"Working under poorly supported vehicles has been recognised by HSE as serious problem for many years. We've recently published guidance in this area which clearly states that people should never work below vehicles supported only by jacks. This should be read by all managers in the motor vehicle repair industry."

The HSE has also issued an Improvement Notice against the firm, which required it to ensure that employees received training before being allowed to work underneath vehicles. It issued a Prohibition Notice on the same day, which required lifting supports to be supplied with similar vehicles.

In mitigation, the firm said it had no previous convictions and had cooperated with the HSE’s investigation. Following the incident, it issued axle stands to all baggage tugs, and also provided training and a safety handbook to all employees who worked with the vehicles.

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