National Express Subsidiary fined £185K after employee crushed to death

National Express arm fined £150k for crush death

  • West Midlands Travel failed to assess the risks inherent in moving buses manually
  • No supervisor was on duty when assistant mechanic was crushed

A subsidiary of the National Express Group has been ordered to pay more than £185,000 after an assistant mechanic was killed when he was crushed between two buses.

Lee Baker was working a night shift at West Midlands Travel’s depot in Walsall when the incident happened in the early hours of 22 October 2011.

Wolverhampton Crown Court was told last week (27 June) that he was trying to move a double decker bus to gain access to an inspection pit, but the reverse gear would not work. He and a colleague attempted to push the vehicle backwards to get it past a single decker parked nearby.

The double decker had an automatic safety device that engaged the parking brake when the doors were open. Baker intended to put the gearbox in neutral but inadvertently left it in drive.

When he got out and closed the doors, the parking brake automatically disengaged after three seconds and the bus moved towards the two men. His colleague jumped out of the way, but Baker was crushed between the two vehicles. He died in hospital three-and-a-half months later.

The HSE’s investigation found that no supervisor was on duty when the accident happened and West Midlands Travel had failed to assess the risks inherent in moving buses manually.

Employees had not been trained in a safe system for moving buses in this way and the company had allowed workers to push vehicles during night shifts. Though there was a recovery agency to tow broken down vehicles in the depot, only supervisors had been briefed about calling out such help.

Without a safe system of work and proper supervision, Baker was left to devise his own way of dealing with the problem.

West Midlands Travel, which employs 5000 people and runs 1500 buses a day, admitted breaching Regulation 3(1)(a) of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations and Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act. As well as a fine of £150,000, the judge ordered the company to pay costs of £35,119.

“There was no supervisor on duty to advise Mr Baker or to ensure that no attempts were made to move a bus without somebody at the wheel, or advise him to call the recovery agency to move it,” said HSE inspector Eve-Marie Edwards.