Bus firm fined £150,000 after death

A mechanic was fatally injured when he was crushed between two buses in what safety inspectors called “a dreadful tragedy”.

The bus operator West Midlands Travel – a subsidiary of National Express Group – was fined £150,000 after a crown court sentencing hearing on the 27th June, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) said.

In October 2011, assistant mechanic Lee Baker was crushed against a bus at the firm’s Carl Street depot in Walsall, West Midlands. His injuries claimed his 24 year old life and he died in hospital in February 2012, having never regained consciousness.

The bus company said the thoughts of its staff were with Mr Baker’s family and it fully accepted the fine, speaking after the hearing at Wolverhampton Crown Court,

Mr Baker, an employee since 2006, was working a night shift with a colleague when the incident happened. Whilst trying to move a bus a short distance, the automatic safety brake was left disengaged and the bus rolled towards the pair. Mr Baker’s colleague managed to get out of the way but the father-of-one was not so lucky and “was crushed between the two vehicles”, an HSE spokesman said.

Mr Baker sadly leaves behind his partner Donna Perigo and young daughter Katie, who was only a year old when the accident happened.

The HSE investigation found that employees were not safely trained to manually move buses, allowing some workers to push them. West Midlands Travel had previously admitted failing to ensure health and safety at work and failing to make a proper risk assessment when pushing buses. They employ 5,000 staff.

Inspectors also concluded that a towing operator was available to move buses in the depot, but only supervisors had been shown how to call them out. “This was a dreadful tragedy and was devastating to Mr Baker’s family. It is clear the failings of West Midlands Travel contributed significantly to this young man’s death.” HSE inspector Eve-Marie Edwards said.

Mr Baker’s partner Ms Perigo said: “Nothing will ever bring Lee back. My main aim has always been to prevent something like this happening again. Lee’s death has been tough on all of us. We will never forget what has happened but now we can at last put it to one side and focus on the future.”

A National Express spokesman said: “Firstly, it is important to say that our thoughts are with Lee Baker’s family on what has been another difficult day for them. We respect the judge’s decision and the fine awarded in this case. We also welcome the judge’s comments on our excellent overall safety record as a major employer.”