A Unite the Union member, accused by his own employers for the tragic death of a colleague in a workplace accident, has been cleared of all blame with the help of Unite Legal Services.

Handbrake failure caused truck to roll out of control

Joseph Horsley, from Kilburn, and an employee of RWR, a road recovery company in Alfreton, Derbyshire, had driven a truck to assist a colleague whose own work vehicle had broken down at the side of the road.

Mr Horsley drove past the broken down vehicle and parked his own truck further up the slip road, applying the handbrake. Another RWR vehicle had already arrived to assist and was parked in front of the broken down vehicle.

Joseph went to assist his colleagues and was standing between the broken down vehicle and the other RWR vehicle when the handbrake in his own truck failed, causing it to roll backwards and crush him and his colleague.

Tragic fatality and severe mental trauma

The vehicle tragically killed Mr Horsley’s colleague, and left him with back injuries and severe mental trauma as a result of the incident.

Mr Horsley said: “After the accident I had terrible nightmares and flashbacks about what happened. I continue to suffer psychologically but I can’t imagine the trauma my colleague’s family have suffered following their tragic loss.

Colleague paid ultimate price for company’s negligence

“I will never forget the moment when the truck started towards us – and couldn’t understand why it was happening as I’d clearly applied the handbrake. I never received any apology from the company for wrongly accusing me for being somehow liable for the fault which caused the truck to roll.

“What’s worse of course is that while I faced false accusations, my colleague paid the ultimate price for their inexcusable negligence.”

Employer behaviour inexcusable

Mr Horsley contacted his union, Unite, and was put in contact with Unite Legal Services and Thompsons Solicitors to fight his corner.

Annmarie Kilcline, Unite the Union Regional Secretary, said: “Where serious injuries and a loss of life are concerned there can be no grey areas. We were committed to defending our member from the false accusations that he was at fault for causing this horrific incident.

“When at last the evidence gathered by Thompsons Solicitors proved that it was wholly a fault with the RWR vehicle, they agreed to settle the case. However, the undue stress RWR caused our member, at a time when he had already undergone a traumatic experience, by pointing the finger of blame anywhere but at themselves, is inexcusable.”

Mr Horsley secured damages for his physical and psychological injuries.