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Firm fined £9k after worker falls off tanker

  • 09 June 2014
  • By Roger Brown

Wallace Oils has been fined £9,330 for safety breaches after one of its drivers fell from the top of a tanker.

In a Health and Safety Executive (HSE) prosecution, Carlisle Magistrates’ Court was told how David Strong, 39, had returned to the firm’s depot in Langwathby, Cumbria, in November 2012, following his morning delivery run and climbed onto the top of the tanker, which had no guard rail, to use a dipstick to check the remaining fuel level.

As he did so, he lost his balance and fell more than 3m to the floor, suffering a broken arm.

Equipment was in place to allow drivers to empty any remaining fuel from the tanker before refilling it.

However, the HSE investigation found it had become common practice for drivers at this small depot to climb onto vehicles to check the fuel levels as there was no gauge on the side of the tank and it was easier than emptying the tanker.

The court was told how the oil distribution firm failed to properly assess the risk that employees would check the fuel in this way, and so failed to provide instructions on how to carry out the work safely.

Strong had been trained to use dipsticks by another driver at the depot, and no one had told him not to use this method.

The company has since made clear in its procedures and training that any remaining fuel is emptied from the tankers when they return to the depot before they are refilled.

Wallace Oils was also ordered to pay £360 in costs after pleading guilty to a breach of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999.

Regulation 3(1) of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 states that every employer shall make a suitable and sufficient assessment of the risks to the health and safety of its employees to which they are exposed while they are at work.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector Matthew Tinsley said: “A worker at Wallace Oils could easily have suffered fatal injuries because the company failed to make sure its employees were safe. There were several other ways this work could have been carried out safely – the simplest being emptying the tank first so workers always started with an empty tank.”

He added: “If this working practice had been captured in the firm’s procedures and drivers had been adequately trained at the time of the incident, then the employee’s injuries could have been avoided.”
Falls from vehicles are among the most common causes of injuries involving workplace transport.

Information on improving safety is available at


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