Swing Bar Barrier Gate Serious Accident to Keighley Postman Driver – Crown Court Case Against Site Owners Outcome – Guilty of Health and Safety Offences
To: All Branches
LTB 605/16 dated 14 October 2016 , reported to Branches, Health and Safety Reps and Regional Health and Safety Forums that on the 9th August 2016 a Keighley Delivery Office Postman and CWU member received serious injuries when his van collided with an unsecured ‘Swing Arm Barrier Gate’ which penetrated the Windscreen of his Royal Mail Vauxhall Combo delivery van and struck him in the face and head causing very serious injuries as he was leaving a sports centre premises after completing his deliveries to the address. The member narrowly avoided death and was fortunate to survive the accident. He was rushed to hospital where he underwent major surgery. Several operations and long term treatment for his injuries followed. (See Attached Photographs of the Accident Scene and Collision).
The CWU Health, Safety & Environment Department held meetings and exchanged correspondence with both Bradford Council and the HSE to press for the owners of the premises to be prosecuted for Health and Safety Offences and a prosecution of the site owners eventually proceeded.
Last month the site owners, Silsden Community Sports Club, pleaded guilty to health and safety regulation breaches at Bradford Crown Court, for failing to secure the swing bar barrier gate which subsequently swung into the path of the Royal Mail van.
The fact that this prosecution proceeded in the first place came about due to pressure by the CWU Health, Safety and Environment Department on the enforcing authorities to prosecute the site owners.
There was some reluctance by the Local Authority to prosecute, because of the type of organisation the defendants were. Silsden Community Sports Club serves the local community with little money and assets, depending on grants, donations and volunteer workers, the Club provides local facilities and amenities on a ‘not for profit’ basis, rather like a charity and is run by volunteers.
Nevertheless, we are pleased the prosecution went ahead and that Silsden Sports Club were found guilty as there is no excuse for ignoring safety legal obligations and compliance which in this case could have led to a fatality.
The outcome of the case that the Judge fined the Club a nominal £140 instead of a six figure fine plus costs and a restitution order which would have been the outcome had the Club owners been a large commercial company or organisation. For example, North Lincolnshire Council were fined £200,000 in a similar case. The Judge in this case also refused to grant Bradford Council their prosecution costs of £4,000, leaving them out of pocket.
The Judge said that he was following the ‘Mandatory’ Sentencing Council Guidance to the courts. This means that the court is required to take into account the “means” of the offenders and the court can’t set fines the offenders simply can’t pay. The court must take into account the size of the organisation in determining the sentence. It must look at turnover and profits identified in accounts and annual reports and the overall financial circumstances as well as the potential impact of offenders ability to improve safety conditions, make improvements and restitution etc.
A Civil Litigation, Claim for Damages for the member is being handled by the Union’s Solicitors and this will be a different thing altogether and will not face any limitations with the claim being taken against the Club’s Insurers. The payout will be based on a quantified, expertly valued and negotiated amount by the Solicitors and Barristers involved, either via a negotiated out of court settlement or if need be, via the civil courts.
The seriousness of the risk posed by unsecured ‘Swing Arm Barrier Gates’ cannot be underestimated. Apart from the 2016 Keighley case, in June 2011 a Somerset Delivery Office Postman was killed in a collision with a swing arm barrier gate at a farm and in 2012 a man died when his vehicle drove into an unsecured swing arm barrier gate at a car park in Lincolnshire.
The HSE issued a Warning and Advice, following the growing number of people killed or seriously injured in collisions with swing arm barrier gates in car parks (copy attached).
HSE Guidance states that ‘Duty Holders’ need to ensure that Swing Arm Barrier gates do not pose a hazard to drivers and must secure the gate, ensuring that suitable precautions are in place to control any risks and avoid collisions with vehicles, by making sure the gates are locked back open and are shut to suitable fixing posts preferably with a padlock so they cannot swing open and present an impalement risk.
A Swing Arm Barrier Gate typically comprises of a supported, horizontal bar or beam hinged at a vertical pillar. The bar is manually moved to open or close off access to an opening in a premises, car park exit/entrance.
Accidents have occurred when barriers have been inadequately secured so that they have partially opened and presented a least visible end on profile of the protruding barrier which has impaled an oncoming vehicle. The end profile of the barrier may not be clearly visible to an oncoming driver. Other incidents have occurred as a barrier has swung into the path of an oncoming vehicle. Unsecured barriers can swing open due to the wind, gravity, vibration or as a result of vandalism.
Royal Mail issued a Safety Alert following the Keighley accident (copy attached) for the Attention of all Royal Mail Van drivers regarding the dangers posed by unsecured swing arm barriers gates.
Would all CWU Branches and Safety Reps continue to raise awareness of the risks with Swing Arm Barrier Gates and bring the Royal Mail SHE Safety Alert and HSE Advice to Members who are Drivers!
In 2016, there was evidence to suggest that the Royal Mail Safety Alert had not been effectively briefed out and brought to the attention of our members nor displayed on Notice Boards. Would Safety Reps please ensure that this Safety Alert has been communicated to drivers so they are fully aware of the dangers of unsecured Swing Arm Barrier Gates.
Owners and operators of premises with Swing Arm Barrier Gates are must lock back these gates and are failing in their general duties under the Health and Safety at Work Act if they don’t do that simple task. Drivers should report any premises they deliver to or collect from where this is a problem in order that Royal Mail can take it up with the site owners.
As the Accident Scene and Accident Investigation Photographs demonstrate, Swing Arm Barrier Gates can be difficult to see when approaching them head-on and when not secured back especially in bad weather or poor light. The HSE advise that the end profile of the swing-arm barrier may not be clearly visible to an oncoming driver!
National Health, Safety & Environment Officer