Industrial accident victim cleared of blame was a devoted father

Father-of-two Gareth Keys
Father-of-two Gareth Keys

The partner of an industrial accident victim has expressed relief that a lack of adequate training – rather than personal negligence – was found to have caused his death.

An inquest jury also found that defects on a scissor lift machine contributed to the death of service engineer Gareth Keys at the Highway Plant Company in Dunmurry in 2008.

Mr Keys, a 27-year-old father-of-two, was carrying out post-hire checks on the elevating platform when it toppled over, crushing him underneath.

At the hearing in Belfast earlier this month, the jury was shown dramatic CCTV footage of the incident, as an expert from the Health and Safety Executive (HSENI) explained that the drive function should have automatically disabled once the lift was elevated beyond its safe height limit.

Throughout the inquest, barristers for both the hire company and the machine’s manufacturers claimed Mr Keys failed to carry out his own safety checks, using external controls, prior to getting on to the platform.

However, Mr Keys’ partner Lisa White said she was never in any doubt about his meticulous approach to safety – or that he would never have been reckless with so much to live for.

“Gareth lived and breathed for his children, he was the best daddy I could ever have asked for my children, which only heightened my frustration that the blame was being put on him,” she said.

“It was very intimidating being faced with so many legal counsel representing Highway Plant Ltd and JLG Industries while we only had [solicitor] Sam Creighton, who I can’t thank enough for his time and dedication to the case.

“The jury’s verdict has meant so much to us. Even though the children go through each day with such an important part of their life missing, they are now comforted with the fact that their daddy never wanted to leave them, that the events of that disastrous day were beyond his control. As a mother that’s all I ever wanted and he can finally rest in peace,” Ms White added.

It is understood that Highway Plant no longer hires the scissor platform involved in the incident due to a lack of confidence in the JLG500RTS model.

Throughout the inquest hearing, the company defended its reputation as an IPAF (International Powered Access Federation) accredited training provider – and gave evidence that Mr Keys had been trained by “experienced personnel” to the satisfaction of the HSENI.