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Outrigger accident costs £20,000

A company director has been ordered to pay £20,000 following the death of his best friend after an aerial lift toppled over in Manchester city centre in 2007.

John Taylor, 65, admitted failing to ensure the safety of his long-serving employee Ian Gutteridge, 56, when they used the platform to reach the top of the Prince Albert monument in Albert Square. They were fitting a neon necklace to the 140-year-old statue.
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The tragedy was the result of the machine, an old Simon Topper, being operated in an ‘inherently unstable’ manner, when it toppled. Gutteridge, had deliberately disabled an outrigger interlock which would have prevented the machine operating in order to get the machine closer in to the monument. He had also ignored a safety instruction to restrict the outreach.
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Albert Square the night of the accident

Gutteridge and a photographer who had been with him, crashed to the ground, both hitting their heads on the floor. Freelance photographer Jonathan Keenan, escaped with injuries to his head, back and shoulder, but Gutteridge, who had not been wearing a safety helmet, died from critical head and chest injuries.

Manchester's Minshull Street Crown Court was told that Gutteridge's actions in over-riding the safety mechanism had been known to his boss and best friend, Taylor who had been with him at the time and should have stopped him operating the machine while it was unsafe.

Taylor, a director of Old Trafford-based Taylor Electronics (Manchester) Ltd, pleaded guilty to a breach of the Health and Safety at Work Act, and was fined £2,000 for failing to ensure the safety of his employee.

The company, which has premises on Chester Road, Old Trafford, was fined £10,000 and ordered to pay £8000 towards costs after also submitting a guilty plea.

Taylor was told however that the fines were substantially lower than would normally be imposed for a case in which a death had occurred, because of the exceptional nature of the circumstances.

Judge Peter Lakin told him: "I accept that this accident was not deliberate. It was an isolated, one-off event, arising from an error of judgement, and your failure to be more assertive."

The Judge, who had been told that Gutteridge had been an irreplaceable employee of the firm for 35 years and best friend of its director for even longer, told him: "I have no doubt that this has had a profound effect on you and your whole family."

David McLachlan, prosecuting on behalf of the Health and Safety Executive, said the accident happened on April 4 2007 when Taylor Electronics had been employed to fit the necklace to promote a jewellery exhibition at Manchester Town Hall.

He said Gutteridge accompanied by Taylor had already made two ascents in the lift to install the neon decoration. Gutteridge then went up a third time with the photographer who wanted to take pictures of the newly adorned statue.

On this occasion however, instead of the basket simply rising vertically, it was moved sideways to allow the photographer a better view, which caused the unit to become unbalanced. Taylor had specifically warned against this.

Mike Calcutt, principal inspector with the HSE, said after the hearing: "It is absolutely crucial that others learn from this tragedy and use equipment in the way it is meant to be used, and that company directors recognised their responsibility in ensuring that health and safety instructions are rigorously complied with."