Valencia Waste Management Limited fined after worker crushed to death under skip on Dartmoor

Mark Wheatley was 31 years old when he died. Credit: BPM Media

A company has been fined £3 million after the deaths of two of its employees, one crushed under a skip in Dartmoor National Park. 

Mark Wheatley, who lived in Teignbridge, died following the incident on 17 January 2020.

He was spending his second week at Dartmoor National Park Conservation Works depot in Bovey Tracey when he died.

The 31-year-old used a lorry to lift two skips at the same time. The skips were two different sizes and fell at an angle onto the back of Mark’s lorry.

When he got onto the lorry bed to rectify the situation, the skips overbalanced, crushing him.

Following the incident, an investigation was carried out by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

It concluded the company had failed to carry out a suitable and sufficient risk assessment into skip operations - meaning that safe systems of work and appropriate training were not implemented, and skips were not maintained in an efficient state.

Furthermore, sizes were not displayed on the skips themselves.

Valencia Waste Management Limited, formerly known as Viridor Waste Management Limited, pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and was fined £2 million on 6 September 2023.

During the hearing, a statement was heard from Mark’s mum Sue Wheatley.

She recalled how she and Mark's dad John arrived at the scene of the incident following a phone call from him asking for help.

In the statement, she said: "Mark was a very kind and caring soul and would help anyone out that needed it. I cannot think of anything that has not been affected by his senseless and unnecessary death.

"Everywhere we go we have memories and reminders of Mark. Having only been in Devon a short time and knowing how much Mark loved living in the area the memories are fresh, and they hurt that he is no longer here.

"Every single night as soon as I close my eyes, I see Mark lying crushed underneath the skip dead or dying. When we arrived at the scene we were held back by the police so I couldn’t get close to him and couldn’t tell if he was dead or alive.

"That image is what I see every single night when I close my eyes and every single morning before I open my eyes. I shouted out to him that we were there. I will never know if he heard that or not.

"Emotionally, I feel completely dead and empty inside. I have no joy in my life and cannot remember the last time I really smiled or laughed."

Keeley Martin, Mark’s partner, said in her victim personal statement: “To say Mark was my soulmate really is an understatement.

Mark, with his partner Keeley Credit: BPM Media

"He really was the kindest, most caring man anyone could have the pleasure of meeting.

"He made a positive impact on everyone he met. The day he was taken he took a part of me with him. I nor anyone who knew him will ever be the same again.”

Valencia Waste Management was also fined at Loughborough Magistrates’ Court on the same day in connection with the death of Michael Atkin, from Wetherby.

He lost his life while collecting a load of wastepaper bales at Valencia Waste Management Limited’s Grendon Road site in Earls Barton, Northamptonshire, on 10 October 2019.

The company was fined an additional £1 million.In response, Alan Hughes, senior enforcement lawyer at HSE said: “These were two men at different stages of their lives, but the grief and pain across both families is devastating. Both deaths were avoidable.

"More needs to be done to make the use of vehicles on waste and recycling sites safer. We have a wealth of advice and guidance freely available.”