The employers of a warehouse worker who died after the company violated health and safety laws admitted liability for the circumstances surrounding his fatal accident.
In November 2015, Robert Ceremuga was instantly killed when a support rack holding 36 tonnes of food collapsed on him at the VF Coldstores Ltd warehouse in Finglas, Dublin. Robert had worked at the warehouse as a supervisor. An investigation was launched into the circumstances surrounding Robert’s death, and it revealed in an engineer’s report that the racking had collapsed due to accidental impact with a forklift. The employee that had been operating the forklift machinery had only been working at the company for a matter of weeks, and had not yet earned the appropriate licence to be operating such a piece of machinery.
As a result of this fatal violation of health and safety laws, VF Coldstores Ltd were prosecuted by the Health and Safety Authority (HSA). The case was brought before the Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to determine guilt, and a representative of Richard’s former employers admitted liability for his death. A victim impact statement was read by Robert’s widow-Maria. Judge Melanie Greally adjourned the hearing in order to ascertain the fine which the company was liable to pay using a “scientific approach”.
Upon reconvening the hearing, Judge Greally order VF Coldstores Ltd to pay a €200,000 fine for breach of health and safety laws resulting in the loss of life. After the successful prosecution, Brian Higgissson-the Assistant Chief Executive of the HSA-stated: “It is important that employers adequately manage and conduct work activities, in particular carrying out risk assessments before any major works, such as alterations to racking. These assessments should ensure that everyone has the necessary training, knowledge and experience to complete the work in a safe manner.”