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Health and Safety Executive criticised after tyre fitter Matthew Hoare's death

The Health and Safety Executive has been criticised in the trial of a director of a Dartford company accused of failing in his duty over the death of a tyre fitter.

Worker Matthew Hoare, 21 died more than 10 years ago after a tyre exploded in Sandwich.

Watling Tyres has admitted it breached Health and Safety regulations – but one of its directors, Andrew Wright,58, from Sevenoaks is on trial facing similar charges, which he denies.

Matthew Hoare, 21, died when a tyre exploded
Matthew Hoare, 21, died when a tyre exploded

But today, his barrister told the jury at Canterbury Crown Court that it was “ a complete disgrace” that it had taken 10 years and four months for the case to come to court.

John Cooper QC, in his closing address, said: “You may feel that piles of papers just sitting in an office for months and months is utterly, utterly unacceptable.

“You must shake your heads and wonder about this astonishing amount of time this has taken and the total lack of justification for it.”

He said it was “scandalous” that it had taken so long to bring Wright to trial – especially after the company admitted its responsibility.

The QC said Wright, who had responsibility for health and safety, wasn’t guilty just because the company had admitted its guilt.

He said that Wright couldn’t be held responsible for everything which happened in Watling Tyres’ 33 depots around the country.

“Mr Wright is not the company and it is a totally unrealistic duty to put on him, “ he added.

Prosecutor Quentin Hunt told the jury how a puncture repair resulted in a fatal injury to Matthew on January 27 2006 at Hammill Brick Limited, Sandwich.

“Mr. Hoare was attempting to repair a puncture on the nearside front tyre of a Dresser Loading Shovel in his capacity as an employee of Watling Tyre Service Ltd.

Watling Tyres is under new ownership
Watling Tyres is under new ownership

“During the course of the repair the tyre exploded, releasing compressed air, causing fatal head injuries to Mr. Hoare.

“Mr Burgess, an employee of Hammill Brick Limited, who was standing close to the incident and was therefore also exposed to risk of injury as a result of the failings of Watling Tyres, “ he claimed.

He added: “The prosecution say that the section two and three Health and Safety offences committed by the company were due to the neglect of Wright, the man at the top of the tree.

“He was the one tasked with making sure that persons were not exposed to risks to their health and safety due to the activities of the company.

“You must shake your heads and wonder about this astonishing amount of time this has taken and the total lack of justification for it" - John Cooper QC

“When one considers the catalogue of failures that surrounded the death of Mr Hoare it is clear that we are not dealing with a single isolated failing but a series of systemic failures within the company which is indicative of negligence at the highest level.”

The prosecutor alleged: “Quite simply, Wright should not have let things get as bad as they were. In allowing things to get this bad he was at the very least negligent in his role as director of the company.

“Wright should have known about the risible state of Health and Safety at Watling Tyres by virtue of his position as director responsible for Health and Safety, “ he claimed.

Watling Tyres, which is based in Green Road, Dartford has pleaded guilty to breaches of their duties under sections 2 and 3 of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974- failure to safeguard the Health and Safety of both employees and non - employees. It will be sentenced later.

The jury in the director’s case is expected to retire this afternoon.

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