Company fined in relation to fatal school bus accident

Monday 29th July

A fine of €25,000 was imposed on O’Reilly Commercials Ltd today (Monday 29th July) by Judge Heneghan in the Dublin Circuit Criminal Court.

The Company, O’Reilly Commercials Ltd, was found guilty of a breach of health and safety legislation. It was convicted by a jury of contravening Section 7 (1) of the Safety, Health and Welfare Act of 1989, in that it failed to conduct its undertaking to ensure that persons not in its employment, who may be affected, were not exposed to risks to their safety. In particular it failed to note the modified rear suspension on vehicle registration number 89WD2218 whilst carrying out a statutory Department of Environment (DOE) test on the 5/6th August 2005.

The case arose as the result of an investigation into an accident resulting in the death of a 15 year old student Michael White, and injuries to others.

The accident occurred when the vehicle (a bus) was carrying students to school on a stretch of road near Clara Co. Offaly on the 4th April 2006. Whilst in transit, the back axle of the vehicle became completely detached from its rear suspension. This catastrophic failure lead to the bus flipping over onto its roof resulting in multiple injuries to its occupants. The bus had passed a statutory DOE test on the 5th/6th August 2005 in O’Reilly Commercials Ltd before the accident.

The court heard that the rear suspension on this vehicle had been modified in 1991 and that this modified rear suspension design had subsequently been the subject of a safety recall of about 200 vehicles by the UK authorities in 1996. The court also heard that a DOE test should not be carried out on any vehicle with a safety critical design modification without certification of that modification by the manufacturer or a suitably qualified engineer.

After the sentencing hearing, Martin O’Halloran, Chief Executive of the Health and Safety Authority said, “There is a duty on all employers to ensure proper maintenance is carried out on vehicles and that inspections are undertaken in a competent manner, especially when it relates to safety of vehicles on the road. Failure to notice defects of vehicles may lead to tragic consequences as reflected in this case.”