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£100,000 fine for driver’s death after brake failure

The death of a lorry driver, set alight when a truck overloaded with molten steel slag tipped over, was a “disaster waiting to happen”, a judge has said.

Carl Parsons’ employer, Short Brothers Plant Ltd, admitted breaking health and safety laws and was fined £100,000. Mr Parsons was engulfed in flames when the truck tipped over and the 800C slag ignited diesel spilling from the tank.  The 55-year-old father-of-two from Pontprennau, Cardiff, died two days after the accident in April 2002.

Cardiff Crown Court heard Short Brothers had not done proper health and safety checks on its vehicles at its site at the former Allied Steel and Wire (ASW) works on Rover Way, where Mr Parsons was working. The truck had been modified to carry the scorching hot slag. But the extra weight affected the brakes, which were not tested regularly, the court heard.

Sentencing, Judge Gerald Price QC said the accident could have been avoided as Mr Parson’s death happened “following the defendant’s failure to ensure his safety”.

Prosecutor Bryan Thomas described how part of the truck’s rigging was badly maintained and had seized. He said the brakes were capable of working, but to a reduced effect and the chain on the petrol cap had been broken and not replaced.

“The brakes failed as he drove up a slope to release the waste metal. But the truck rolled back and tipped over igniting the truck’s diesel fuel which had escaped through the leaking cap. .

HSE principal inspector Steve Scott said: “This is a most tragic case, and must serve as a warning to all companies engaged in potentially hazardous activities of the need for thorough and robust health and safety measures to protect their employees.”

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