A YORK skip hire company has pleaded guilty to health and safety breaches over the death of a 73-year-old woman and been ordered to pay more than £270,000.

Betty Smith died when she was hit by a reversing lorry at Martins of York’s site in Osbaldwick Lane on January 29, 2020.

Earlier this year an inquest heard that an HSE investigation into the accident found there was a “well-established” risk of pedestrians being struck during work activities.

At York Magistrates' Court, the company admitted two health and safety offences relating to her death.

Martins of York Ltd, of Riccall Road, Escrick, pleaded guilty to failure to carry out its business in a way that ensured that members of the public were not exposed to the risk of being hit by vehicles moving in and around the site.

It also pleaded guilty to failure to have a complete, suitable and sufficient risk assessment in place to control the hazards associated with workplace transport.

The skip hire, recycling and waste management company was fined £268,000 and ordered to pay £10,130.52 costs to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) which brought the case against it and a £170 statutory surcharge.

According to its website, Martins of York has a large fleet of skip vehicles and more than 1,000 skips of several different sizes that it hires to private and commercial customers.

York Press: A Martins of York skip in useA Martins of York skip in use

It declined to comment when contacted by The Press.

The inquest jury heard that Mrs Smith lived on the Outgang Lane travellers’ site, Osbaldwick, and died near the entrance to the company’s site when making a regular visit to the site to collect free wood from bins left outside the entrance by staff for travellers.

Lorry driver Adam Horsley told the inquest he had seen Mrs Smith with a trolley of wood and another woman as he entered the site and had believed she was returning to her home.

He did not see her when he reversed his lorry, he said.

He had checked both his side mirrors continually while reversing, but his rear-view mirror was blocked by a skip and the lorry did not have CCTV cameras allowing the driver to see behind the vehicle.

A reverse alarm was sounded as he entered reverse, he said.

The inquest was told the skip company had signed off a risk assessment prepared by an external company that said no unauthorised visitors were to be allowed on the site.

The assessment said that using a banksman - an operative trained to direct vehicle movement on or around a site - to guide reversing vehicles was not necessary in all cases of vehicles reversing, with the company happy with the procedure in place.

The jury returned a finding of accidental death.