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Employer sentenced after elderly worker crushed to death

A Kilmarnock employer has been fined for safety failings after a worker was crushed to death when a heavy gate came off its hinges and fell onto him.

Malcolm Macdonald Kennedy, 69, of Riccarton, Kilmarnock, a retired fitter, had been working on a casual basis for Alistair Thomas Corrie, who trades as A Corrie Skip Hire, for around eight years when the incident happened on 12 December 2011.

Kilmarnock Sheriff Court heard today (3 Nov) that Mr Kennedy was often the first to arrive at the firm’s premises on the Loreny Industrial Estate, Umberley Road, Kilmarnock, and used his own set of keys to open up the gates.

A CCTV recording showed Mr Kennedy arriving at 7am and making his way towards the gates of the yard. Cameras did not cover the area where the incident happened, but it appears that when Mr Kennedy opened a set of double gates at the side of the compound, one of the 180kg gates came off its hinges and fell on top of him

Mr Kennedy was found an hour later by another employee after he saw that one of the gates was lying on the ground and went to investigate. Despite attempts by paramedics to resuscitate Mr Kennedy, he was later pronounced dead at the scene.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) revealed the original gates and gateposts had been installed in 2003, but at some point later extra hinges were welded onto the posts and then packed with metal washers. This had rendered the gate defective and much more likely to come off its hinges.

In addition, HSE found the gate that had fallen on top of Mr Kennedy had been catching on the ground when it was opened.

The use of the washers also meant that neither a split pin, nor a cap, used to secure hinges in place, could be fitted. This meant that when the gate caught on the ground, there was nothing to stop it falling off its hinges.

HSE concluded the most likely scenario was that the gate had caught on the ground as Mr Kennedy opened it, lifting it sufficiently to take the load off the top hinge and causing the gate to fall on him.

Alistair Thomas Corrie, 57, of East Netherton Street, Kilmarnock, was fined £20,000 after pleading guilty to breaching Section 2 of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.

Following the case, HSE inspector Lesley Hammond said:

“Employers have a duty to provide and maintain a safe means of access and egress for their employees.  The tragic death of Mr Kennedy could easily have been prevented had the gates been installed and maintained properly.  Unfortunately, this failing led to the loss of Mr Kennedy’s life.”

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