Horror death that could have been avoided

Bruce Dempsey
Bruce Dempsey

A ST Helens firm is set to be hit with a huge fine after a young engineer was crushed to death by a half-tonne pressing machine.

Bruce Dempsey, 25, was killed when the machine fell from a moving forklift truck at an Applied Fusion Ltd site in December 2009.

An inquest at Bolton Coroners’ Court earlier this year found that Bruce’s death was a tragic accident after he suffered a fractured skull when the machine fell off a faulty forklift truck as it drove up a workshop ramp.

But experts said the load would not have fallen off if it had been strapped on safely, prompting a Health and Safety Executive (HSE) review.

Applied Fusion Ltd, whose HQ is in Prescot Road were subsequently found guilty of breaching safety regulations following a trial at Minshull Street Crown Court in Manchester.

His Honour Judge Lever adjourned the case before sentencing pending further information about the firm’s finances, but indicated that a substantial fine was in order.

Bruce’s mum, Jeanette Letham, who also has two younger sons, Jack, 20, and 17-year-old Carl, told how she is still distraught at the loss of her eldest son.

She said: “Bruce was a fantastic son and his family and friends still miss him so much. The inquest and now the HSE prosecution have been really difficult for us to cope with, especially as we now know that Applied Fusion could have taken better care of Bruce and prevented his death.

“I’m angry and frustrated but we are relieved the investigation is over and I feel some sense of closure knowing that we have done all we can to show how important health and safety at work is.

“Other businesses should remember what happened to Bruce and realise they have their employees lives in their hands. I hope it helps to prevent other families losing their son or daughter in accidents like this.”

During the HSE prosecution, at which no representative of Applied Fusion attended, it was revealed that the firm’s risk assessment and training records were “inadequate”.

It was also discovered that the company’s health and safety employee had never visited the site in Patricroft, Eccles, where the accident took place.

Bruce’s family’s lawyer, Keith Cundall of Irwin Mitchell, said: “Bruce went to work that day expecting that his employers would do all they could to keep him safe. They didn’t, and the tragic consequences of that are there for everyone to see now.

“His family will have to live with that forever but are determined that his death should serve as a warning to all other employers that safety in the workplace isn’t an option - it’s essential.

“I hope the verdict is a wake-up call for other employers and reinforces the fact health and safety regulations in the workplace are there to prevent injury and devastating deaths like Bruce’s.”