Firm fined £120,000 after Mossend coal depot tragedy

The tragedy happened at Fergusson's depot in Mossend.
The tragedy happened at Fergusson's depot in Mossend.

A firm has been fined £120,000 after a long-serving employee was knocked down and killed by a truck at its Mossend coal depot.

Investigators found Fergusson Distribution had no system in place to separate pedestrians and vehicles while staff “routinely” went into the yard where the tragedy occurred.

Depot supervisor Margaret Corcoran (66), of Holytown, died when she was struck by a truck reversing at the Holytown Road depot days before Christmas 2014.

The company admitted health and safety offences and was fined at Hamilton Sheriff Court.

Gary Aitken, head of the Crown Office health and safety division which prosecuted Fergusson, said the company’s failings had resulted in tragedy.

He said: “This was a foreseeable and entirely avoidable tragedy which has left family and friends devastated at the loss of a loved one.

“Hopefully this prosecution and the sentence will remind other employers that failure to fulfil their obligations can have tragic consequences and that they will be held to account for their failings.”

At the time of the accident depot manager John Macauley described Mrs Corcoran as a “popular and respected colleague”.

She had left the office to speak to a driver when she was hit by a truck.

The driver had not seen Mrs Corcoran, but investigators said there was no evidence that he was in any way to blame for her death.

The court heard there were no site rules prohibiting staff from entering the yard while vehicles were operating. Staff “would routinely enter the yard” to speak to drivers loading vehicles while drivers would collect their delivery sheets from the office. There were no pedestrian-only routes across the yard.

A health and safety executive inspector concluded the system of work was “clearly unsafe” as workers were exposed to “unnecessary risk”.

The court was also told that before the tragedy Fergusson had reviewed health and safety at the depot.

Measures put in place included allowing only “trained, competent, authorised persons” to drive vehicles, fitting reversing alarms to trucks and the use of high visibility clothing.

However, the company had at that stage considered the segregation of pedestrians “impractical”.

Since Mrs Corcoran’s death changes have been made in the yard, including the installation of barriers and a pedestrian route.