In what is believed to be the first case of its kind a company has been fined £30,000 after one of its workers was killed in a car accident outside working hours.
The company involved, The Produce Connection, admitted breaching health and safety legislation by failing to ensure the health of workers and the public. As well as the fine it was also ordered to pay £24,000 costs.
The Health and Safety Executive brought the case after 21-year-old Mark Fiebig died when the van he was driving drifted into the path of an oncoming articulated lorry on the A10 near Ely, Cambridgeshire, in October 2002.
Subsequent investigations revealed that Mr Fiebig had worked 11 days without a day off before the crash. His work potato harvesting involved driving farm machinery. During the three days immediately before the accident records indicated he had worked from 6am until 1am or 2am the following morning.
Prosecutor Pascal Bates told the court that because farm workers were paid by the hour, records were kept for the payroll. Mr Fiebig was not the only worker working such long hours. Therefore, the farm manager and other management had to be aware of the hours being worked.
The judge at Cambridge Crown Court, Gareth Hawksworth, said the company had failed to properly monitor the hours its employees were working.
Although the inquest into Mr Fiebig’s death recorded a verdict of accidental death, coroner William Morris said he had worked ‘intolerable hours’ and probably fell asleep as he was driving home.