A BARNSLEY man who had been illegally operating as a company director and whose disregard for safety at work led to an employee suffering life-changing leg injuries has been convicted of offences under the Health and Safety at Work Act.

Howard Charles Whitehead, 68, of Richard Road, Darton, was the ‘shadow director’ of Wheaton Truck and Trailer Sales Ltd. He was given a suspended six-month custodial sentence, a curfew and an unpaid work order.

Whitehead, who appeared at Sheffield Crown Court on May 14, was also banned from being a company director for 10 years and ordered to pay compensation of £5,000 to the injured employee.

The prosecution, which was initially brought by an officer of Barnsley Council, followed as a result of an accident in January 2013 in the premises yard Mr Whitehead operated at Claycliffe Road, Barugh Green.

His company was involved in converting semi-trailers for onward sale.

Employee Paul Blackwell suffered multiple injuries to his left leg while operating a 10-tonne forklift truck, the court heard.

It took emergency services over two hours to cut him free when he became trapped and Mr Blackwell now faces life with a long-term disability.

The investigation by Barnsley Council revealed there had been consistent failures by the company which meant system of work had not been sufficiently assessed, planned, monitored, or reviewed, and Mr Whitehead had failed to identify that risk.

The court heard there was evidence to show Mr Whitehead knew the forklift Mr Blackwell was driving at the time of the accident was not working properly, including the brakes, and that it was wholly unsuitable. It had been described by t two expert witnesses as “scrap”.

Judge Potter added that although Mr Whitehead did not deliberately or recklessly cause the accident, his negligence did cause the injury.

Stephen Butler, the senior officer who investigated the case, said: “Mr Whitehead attempted to evade personal responsibility by misleading officers into thinking that he was merely an employee when in reality he was the controlling mind of the company

“This case should be seen as a warning to other business owners that profit should never be put before the safety or health of employees.”