A representative for Bus Éireann told a Mayo district court this week that the death of a man at its Ballina depot three years ago was a “source of profound regret” for the entire company.
Fifty-year-old haulage worker Liudas Padagas, originally from Lithuania, died at the Ballina bus depot on April 14, 2011, during the unloading of a 10,000 litre oil tank which he had delivered to the site.
At Ballina District Court on Tuesday, Bus Éireann pleaded guilty to a breach of Section 12 of the Health, Safety and Welfare Act.
The breach consisted of failing to adequately ensure the safety of an individual, who was not its own employee.
A statement from Padagas’ widow recounted to the court the terrible toll the death of her husband, a father of two, had taken on her family. She said it was difficult to put into words how deeply it had affected her and her son and daughter, and that they had been left in a “black hole” following the accident.
Judge Mary Devins fined Bus Éireann €3,000 and ordered it to pay DPP and Health and Safety Authority (HSA ) legal costs amounting to €10,571.
However, the judge said a fine in a case such as this seemed “minuscule and almost meaningless”.
HSA inspector Padraic McMahon told the court Bus Éireann had purchased two large oil tanks for the depot from a company called Elmore Ltd.
It was during the delivery and offloading of the second of these tanks that Mr Padagas, a Charles O’Reilly Haulage employee, lost his life.
It emerged Bus Éireann was under the impression the oil tank weighed 60 per cent less than its actual weight due to the particulars of the product outlined to them on an invoice from Elmore Ltd in advance of delivery. The wrong particulars were again given to Bus Eireann during subsequent telephone conversations with the company.
Because of the error, Bus Éireann did not have the appropriate equipment and measures in place onsite to offload the tank.
Arising out of this, a foreman at the depot asked a worker on a neighbouring construction site to use his teleporter to move the tank.
However the unloading went tragically wrong when Mr Padegas, who had walked between the forklift and the trailer of his vehicle, was struck as the tank toppled off the teleporter.
The breach of the Health, Safety and Welfare Act arose from Bus Eireann failing to put an exclusion zone in place during the offloading process.
Bus Éireann CEO Martin Nolan and numerous senior management personnel from the company were in Ballina for the hearing.
Acting for Bus Éireann, Mr Ronan Kennedy, BL, said this, combined with an early guilty plea, and wide ranging new health and safety measures put in place by the company since Mr Padegas’s death was an indication of Bus Eireann’s committement to health and safety standards.
“This is a source of profound regret to all concerned,” he said. He expressed his sympathy to the Padegas family on behalf of Bus Éireann’s board of management and staff.