DHL has been fined £2.6m after a man was killed and three others injured after a stack of tyres toppled and fell through the adjacent roof of an office where they were working at the Coventry warehouse.
Warwick Crown Court heard how a tall stack of metal containers filled with car and truck tyres crashed through the roof at the porta cabin office, striking the staff working inside.
According to the Coventry Observer, a 50-year-old man died from multiple injuries and a second man, aged 35, suffered serious injuries including three fractures to his skull, a bleed to his brain, broken ribs and collarbone. Coventry City Council says the remaining two were ‘walking wounded’ after the incident on 2 February 2016.
Environmental Health Officers from Coventry City Council found DHL had allowed high and top-heavy stacking of mixed stillages (tyre containers) right next to the office.
The dangerous practice had become a “common occurrence” and staff had never been told not to do it, the media report says.
“Failure of DHL management”
DHL’s warehouse in Coventry is used for storing tyres, ranging from small car tyres to extra-large agricultural tyres. Tyres are picked and loaded onto HGVs to distribute them to customers. The court heard how DHL had taken over the site from another company in September 2015, a few months before the incident.
However, the logistics giant had failed to do a health and safety audit which could have helped identify any poor practice.
Inspectors found there had been no risk assessments and a lack of staff training at the warehouse managed by DHL.
There had been no floor markings to guide placement of the stillages and the company had relied on the views and judgements of individual drivers’ ideas of safe practices.
DHL had “fundamentally and systematically” failed to manage health and safety at the site. Coventry City Council concluded this was down to a “multi-layered systemic failure of DHL management.”
“The Prosecution concluded that DHL specialise in storage and distribution and they should have done very much better,” it concludes.
Large and complex case
Councillor Christine Thomas, of Coventry City Council, thanked the EHOs who were contacted immediately by HSE and continued to work alongside them in the three and a half year investigation. She said: “This is the largest and most complex case that safety officers have had to deal with.
“As a local authority we are responsible for enforcing health and safety at work legislation in warehouses such as this one, and it is a responsibility our officers take very seriously.”
Mr Justice Baker, sentencing the case on 22 October, said: “The defendant bore a high degree of culpability for these offences. There was a serious corporate failure to ensure that suitable assessments had been made prior to this incident.”
DHL (Dalsey, Hillblom and Lynn) is an American-founded company headquarted in Bonn in Germany. Tyre distribution is one of the logistics services it provides internationally. The company generated 61.5 billion euros in 2018.
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