Hatton Traffic Management has lashed out at the HSE after being cleared of blame over an accident in which two of its workers died

An unsuccessful six-year campaign by the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) to prosecute a company over an accident in which two of its workers died was a ‘waste of taxpayers money’, according to the company’s lawyer.

Hatton Traffic Management was this week cleared of blame for the accident by a jury at Teesside Crown Court. Steffan Groch, health and safety partner with law firm DWF, said afterwards that the trial should never have gone ahead as the accident was clearly unforeseeable. The jury agreed with that assessment.

The accident took place on the A66 in County Durham in 2002. The men were electrocuted when a mobile tower light they were moving came into contact with overhead power lines. The company was accused of failing to carry out a proper risk assessment, however it argued that it could not have reasonably foreseen the men’s actions.

The case went to the Court of Appeal and the House of Lords, where the HSE argued that employers should be required to take reasonable steps against unforeseeable risks, and that negligent actions by employees were irrelevant as to whether an employer was guilty.

HSE lost in both cases, however it pressed on with the prosecution. After a four-week trial at Teesside Crown Court, the jury found the company not guilty.

DWF partner, Steffan Groch said: “This case was about what was ‘reasonably foreseeable’. HSE’s approach has been misconceived and the jury have confirmed this. HSE closed their minds to evidence that was absolutely fundamental. As a result of this, it falsely raised the families’ expectations of a successful criminal prosecution.

“It’s taken six years and dozens of hearings for this case to be concluded. Despite earlier rulings against HSE in both the Court of Appeal and the House of Lords, it pressed on regardless. The result has been a waste of taxpayers’ money.”