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Defective vehicle contributed to employee’s death

A coroner’s jury has ruled that a collection vehicle’s faulty brakes and wiring was a factor in the death of F&R Cawley employee Peter Coleman.

Coleman, 54, of Dunstable in Bedfordshire, died on 11 October 2014 in an incident while collecting waste from the Woodside Leisure Park in Watford.

An inquiry, which was heard by a jury, was held at Hatfield Coroner’s court on 4-5 October.

The jury was told that, while working on his own, Coleman had applied the handbrake and got out of the vehicle to collect two commercial bins.

But the vehicle moved off as Coleman operated its lifting mechanism. He ran after the vehicle in an attempt to stop it, but became trapped underneath the back axle for around 90 minutes. The vehicle then caught fire.

Coleman suffered head and pelvic injuries and was taken to Watford General Hospital where he died.

Experts said the vehicle’s brakes were defective and a safety feature of the vehicle’s lifting equipment had been bypassed.

The jury returned a verdict that Coleman’s death was caused by an accident in the course of his work which had been contributed to by the faults in his vehicle.

An investigation into the incident is being conducted by Watford Borough Council because it occurred on leisure premises.

This is a tragic incident and the company has offered its deepest condolences to Peter Coleman’s family

Cawleys spokesperson

Justine Hoy, the council’s head of environmental health and licensing, said: “There is an active and ongoing criminal investigation considering compliance with health and safety legislation and regulations.

 ”Our role is to act as regulators and we are independent of both the company involved and the family. We do, however, continue to offer our condolences to the family of Mr Coleman at this difficult time.”

Law firm Irwin Mitchell was asked to investigate the circumstances around Coleman’s death by his widow, Bev.

Following the hearing, she said: “It has been incredibly difficult to hear the findings of the inquest and ultimately how Pete’s death perhaps could and should have been prevented.”

A spokesperson for the Luton recycling firm, which trades as Cawleys, said: “This is a tragic incident and the company has offered its deepest condolences to Peter Coleman’s family.

“We take our responsibilities for our employees, their families and the local community very seriously. The waste industry is highly regulated and we rigorously follow all safety procedures.

“I’m sure you will appreciate that we are unable to comment further on this very sad incident while investigations are continuing, and we will, of course, work with the relevant authorities as part of that process.”

Irwin Mitchell solicitor Sofie Toft said: “The details outlined at this inquest have raised a number of hugely worrying concerns regarding safety of the vehicle that Pete was operating on the day he died. It is our view that, had the defects in Pete’s vehicle been rectified, his death could undoubtedly have been prevented.”

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