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Veolia failed to ensure safety of John Head who died at Folkestone depot

By Paul Hooper

A company has been found guilty of failing to ensure the safety of a worker who died under the wheels of a dustcart.

Members of victim John Head’s family, who attended every day of the trial, wept as the jury returned its 10-2 majority verdict after 13 and a half hours deliberating.

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

John Head
John Head

Now the company – which had denied the failure under the Health and Safety at Work Act – have been fined one million pounds.

Under the Act the judge can only impose a fine for the offence together with costs of the three-week trial.

Prosecutor Jonathon Ashby-Norman QC had told Canterbury Crown Court that the system in place for the delivering of waste to the site was “a free for all”.

He said Veolia did not have a “proper system” of safety to ensure that 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 had worked in a two-man system delivering waste to the site and acted as a “look out” to ensure the truck could be reversed safely into the loading bays.

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

The trial took a dramatic twist when defence barrister Mark Watson QC, suggested that the incident may have been the result of what another employer did, which led to Mr Head falling under the wheels of a dustcart.”

Flowers at the gate of Veolia in 2013. Picture: Paul Amos
Flowers at the gate of Veolia in 2013. Picture: Paul Amos

The jury was told of “antagonism” between Mr Head and another employee prior to the incident.

But dustman Peter Hudson - known as Chelsea Pete because of his love of football - denied suggestions he had told a friend he had “nudged” Mr Head who had then fallen under the wheels of a lorry.

Mr Hudson told a jury he was directing the truck as it reversed into an unloading bay.

He said he hadn’t seen see Mr Head, who was wearing a hi-Viz vest, until he became aware of “something yellow going round and round like a washing machine!”

Mr Watson asked him about evidence he had given at the inquest into Mr Head’s death in 2013.

The defence barrister asked if he had later told a friend in a pub: “I got away with that!”

The QC had claimed that when asked what he had meant, Mr Hudson told a pal "I gave him a nudge and he went under. I didn’t mean to.’

Mr Hudson denied he had made any of the remarks, telling the jury: “I didn’t say that at all. To me it was the sickest, vilest accusation.”

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