Widow calls for Airbus to face tougher penalty

Published date: 28 July 2014 |
Published by: David Humphreys
Read more articles by David Humphreys


THE heartbroken widow of a man crushed to death in an accident at work says she will fight for a stronger punishment against his employer.

Sheila Williams said the £200,000 fine handed to Airbus as a result of her husband Donald’s death at the company’s Broughton plant did not “fit the crime”.

Mr Williams died in 2011 while fitting a spreader – used to clear ice from the Hawarden Airport runway – to the back of a tractor.

Airbus admitted failing to ensure the safety of its employees and was also ordered to pay £50,000 costs at Mold Crown Court.

In the same week as the sentencing, Airbus announced it had secured more than £43 billion worth of orders from across the world at the Farnborough Airshow.

Mrs Williams, 61, said: “I intend to contact the Justice Secretary [Chris Grayling] to see if he feels the case is viable to be looked at again.

“I don’t feel the punishment fits the crime. I don’t feel a fine was appropriate. It seems insignificant. It won’t hurt Airbus.”

Mold Crown Court was told the accident that killed 62-year-old Mr Williams had been “entirely avoidable”.

Airbus admitted a health and safety at work offence.

The accident occurred when Mr Williams and a colleague were attempting to link the spreader to the tractor, but they had not been provided with any training on how to do so and no instructions on the tractor or its controls.

A risk assessment would have alerted them to the dangers of working in a so-called “danger zone” behind the tractor.

Mrs Williams added: “If I killed someone in a car, I would go to jail.

“It wasn’t clear whether anybody even lost their job for this.

“I really don’t feel a fine is significant enough. Airbus should set an example.”

Delivering sentence, Judge Dafydd Hughes said despite a fine being the only financial penalty available, it could never replace the loss of life.

Mrs Williams said she would like to see a change to the law meaning individuals are punished in law for similar incidents.

“To me, what was important was the outcome of the court case and I’m not happy because the outcome wasn’t right.

“It’s certainly not the one I hoped for.

“The law needs to be changed in my view, individuals needs to be made responsible for their actions.”

In response, an Airbus spokesman said: “Changes were made within this department as a direct result of this incident, and action was taken against individuals.”

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