Widow 'devastated' Whitburn firm cleared of blame over husband's death

By Angie Brown
BBC Scotland, Edinburgh and East reporter

Published
image copyrightTracey Price
image captionTracey and Matthew Price moved from Buckinghamshire to Whitburn in West Lothian 20 years ago

The widow of a maintenance engineer who died after being crushed at work in West Lothian said she was "devastated" the firm had been cleared of blame.

Matthew Price died in an ambulance following the accident at Veolia's Whitburn waste water treatment plant on 31 January 2018.

The 63-year-old got trapped between the railings of a water tank and a rotating blade.

Veolia said it shared "a deep sorrow" over Mr Price's death.

It said although a FAI found "no defect" in Veolia's system of work "this will not bring back a highly valued, long standing member of our team".

A fatal accident inquiry report said he died from chest trauma associated with probable mechanical asphyxia.

Tracey Price, 55, who lives in Blackburn in West Lothian, said she was "shocked and disappointed" the FAI had not recommended that the areas where he became trapped were filled in.

She told BBC Scotland: "I cannot believe they do not have to fill in the parts with mesh because I strongly believe it will happen again.

"I don't want anyone else to have to go through this, it's been absolutely horrendous. I'm really devastated they have been cleared of any blame."

image copyrightTracey Price
image captionMatthew Price was a grandfather-of-six

The FAI report said: "The cause of the accident resulting in the death was that Matthew Price had leaned through the perimeter fence around the final settlement tank to carry out maintenance work, without ensuring that the bridge was isolated.

"He attempted to effect a temporary repair to continue the operation of the rotating bridge by re-attaching the displaced tyre of the drive wheel.

"While attempting to hammer the tyre back on to the wheel, he became accidentally trapped between the stanchion of the fence and the rotating bridge thereby leading to the compression of his chest and subsequent death."

But Mrs Price said her husband, who was a grandfather-of-six, had been meticulous about safety having previously been a health and safety representative.

She said: "Even in the house he was always telling me how to do things the correct way to be safe so I know he would have taken all precautions at work.

"There were no eye witnesses or CCTV so we don't know if he slipped."

image copyrightTracey Price
image captionTracey said her husband had been looking forward to his retirement

The report said: "There are no precautions which could reasonably have been taken that might realistically have resulted in the death, or accident resulting in the death, being avoided; other than for Mr Price to have followed the established safe system of work by implementing the isolation procedure before placing himself in proximity to the rotating bridge at the tank."

The factory worker said her husband, who had five children, had recently begun preparing for his retirement.

She said: "It was all he talked about. He only had a couple of years to go. He had filled a whole shed full of motorbike parts so he could build bikes when he retired and had also bought a caravan to tour around in.

"He was such a hard worker and I am heartbroken to think he will never get a day of his retirement."

Mr Price had been in the job for 20 years and had moved to Scotland from Aylesbury in Buckinghamshire where the couple had met.

The report said it was up to Veolia to make any improvements or changes.

John Abraham, Veolia chief operating officer for water, industrial and energy, said: "We would like to express our deepest sympathies and condolences to Matt Price's family, friends and colleagues following the tragic incident at Whitburn waste water treatment works on 31 January 2018.

"Whilst we are aware of the sheriff's findings that there was no defect in Veolia's system of work, this will not bring back a highly valued, long standing member of our team and we share a deep sorrow at his loss."

Jayne Crawford, of Thompsons Solicitors who represent Mrs Price, said: "I can understand the family's dismay at the sheriff's determination. Our position on their behalf is that there are very strict statutory obligations which employers must comply with. They were not complied with. Had they been Mr Price's tragic death would have been avoided."

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