Welding company fined £450k over fatigued workers' crash

A1 crash
Image caption Zac Payne and Michael Morris died after their van crashed on the A1 near Claypole, Newark

A welding company has been fined £450,000 after two of its fatigued employees died in a car crash.

Trainee Zac Payne, 20, and Michael Morris, 48, were killed when their vehicle crashed into an articulated lorry parked in a layby on the A1 near Claypole, Newark, on 19 June 2013.

At the time of the crash, Mr Payne had worked for about 26 hours.

Renown Consultants Limited was sentenced at Nottingham Crown Court for three safety offences.

The company, which specialises in railway track welding, was found guilty on 19 March of failure to ensure the safety of its employees, failure to ensure non-employees were not exposed to risks, and failure to perform sufficient assessment of risk on the day before the fatalities.

At the sentencing, prosecutor David Travers QC said the verdict showed the "clear and unambiguous failure" of the firm to "ensure the safety of its employees".

Speaking via Skype, Mr Travers described how Mr Payne, who lived with his grandmother in Balby, Doncaster, had driven 300 miles from the firm's Doncaster depot to Alnmouth in Northumberland and back on 18 June, before being sent on a 280-mile round-trip to Stevenage.

He and Mr Morris, of Scawthorpe, Doncaster, embarked on the job at 19:15 BST, and completed the work at 03:30, before the van left the carriageway and hit the articulated lorry.

Mr Travers said the crash caused an "intense fire exacerbated by the canisters of welding gases in the van".

'Cut corners'

During the trial Judge Nigel Godsmark QC heard it was "common practice" for "young under-25 assistant welders" to "take over the driving on the way home because the welder - authorised to drive - felt unable to continue through fatigue".

Employees under 25 were not insured to drive work vehicles.

Prashant Popat, defending, said that due to the aftermath of the crash there was "an argument that the identity of the driver has not been established".

Judge Godsmark said "only lip service" was paid to the implementation of safety measures to ensure that fatigued employees were protected in 2013.

"Senior operations managers cut corners and often expediency often overrode the known safety policies," he said.

He added there was "wilful blindness at Doncaster when it came to considerations of fatigue".

He said he "saw genuine remorse" from the company's directors, but also "individuals in denial".

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