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Veolia on trial over death of John Head who was hit by a bin lorry at Folkestone depot

By Paul Hooper

A company has gone on trial over the death of a worker who was killed after being struck by a bin lorry five years ago.

John Head, 60, died in October 2013 while working for Veolia Environmental Service (UK) at the Ross Depot Recycling Centre in Folkestone.

The company has denied a charge under the Health and Safety at Work Act that it failed to ensure Mr Head’s safety.

John Head was killed when a dustcart reversed into him at the Veolia depot in Folkestone
John Head was killed when a dustcart reversed into him at the Veolia depot in Folkestone

Prosecutor Jonathon Ashby-Norman QC claimed the system in place for the delivering of waste to the site was “a free for all”.

He claimed Veolia did not have a “proper system” of safety ensuring people could move safely around the site.

“We say that Mr Head was let down by his employers and exposed to the risk of a collision with large vehicles being manoeuvred around the site, which was insufficiently regulated.”

Mr Head worked in a two-man system delivering waste to the site and he acted as a “look out” to ensure the truck could be reversed safely into the loading bays.

The Veolia depot where John Head was killed. Picture: Paul Amos
The Veolia depot where John Head was killed. Picture: Paul Amos

The jury heard that after his colleague stopped his vehicle, Mr Head got out and his driver assumed he was going to the toilet.

But defence barrister Mark Watson QC, told the jury at Canterbury Crown Court the incident "may have been the result of what another employer did, which led to Mr Head falling under the wheels of a dustcart".

He claimed that Mr Head was in a place where he should not have been and the reversing truck had another employee whose job was to ensure it was done safely.

“We understand that he will say that he did not see Mr Head. This begs the question of how he didn’t see him.

Flowers left at the Veolia depot after John Head was killed. Picture: Paul Amos
Flowers left at the Veolia depot after John Head was killed. Picture: Paul Amos

“We say that the only rational explanation is that Mr Head was going over to speak to his colleague and something occurred between them and Mr Head ended up for some reason on the ground and under the wheels of a reversing lorry.”

The jury was told it may also hear of “some antagonism” between Mr Head and another employee prior to the incident.

Mr Watson claimed there had been no previous accident involving reversing vehicles in the years Veolia were in charge of the site.

Earlier Mr Watson paid tribute to Mr Head, who had worked at the site for many years and had been a “valued employee of long-standing".

He said the company offered its condolences to a family man “and we cannot begin to imagine the loss his family and friends are suffering".

The trial is expected to last two weeks.

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