A FOOD distribution company has been fined £500,000 following the death of a delivery driver at a Newport centre.

Yesterday at Cardiff Crown Court (October 7), AF Blakemore and Son Ltd were fined £500,000 after admitting a breach of the Health and Safety at Work Act (1974).

The prosecution was brought by Newport City Council following a joint investigation with Gwent Police and focused on the death of 42-year-old delivery driver Ronald Hayward in 2011.

The driver, from Merthyr, worked for Garth Bakery, of Abercynon and delivered to Newport, Bristol and Cwmbran in the early hours of each day.

At around 4.40am on Wednesday, October 26, 2011 he went to AF Blakemore and Son in Agincourt Street, Newport, for his first delivery that day and had the key to the gate in order to enter the site.

When preparing to leave the premises, a gate weighting around 300kg landed on him and, although police were quickly alerted, Mr Hayward died of traumatic asphyxia.

An inquest into Mr Hayward’s death in Newport Coroner's Court, January 2014, heard that the gate fell due to a failure of the manual gate hinge.

The court heard that on April 4, 2004, a driver had hit the gate damaging it. Although the gate was fixed 10 days later, a fitting report stated “gates are in poor condition – recommend replacement.”

The bolt fixing the fabricated repair bracket to an angle iron failed due to fatigue and the bracket was only held in place by one other bolt, which failed on October 26 2011, the inquest heard.

No further work was carried out on the gate between this and the time of Mr Hayward’s accident. A unanimous verdict from the jury concluded it was 'death by misadventure'.

AF Blakemore and Son pleaded guilty to contravening health and safety regulations. As well as the £500,000 fine they have been ordered to pay costs of £108,625.80 within a 28-day period.

Newport City Council’s cabinet member for regulatory functions, Councillor Bob Poole, said: “Firstly, our thoughts are with Mr Hayward’s family who lost a much-loved husband and father almost five years ago.

“Mr Hayward lost his life in an avoidable incident while he was carrying out his job. I hope this case reminds businesses that they have a duty to ensure their premises are safe places for both employees and visitors.”

AF Blakemore and Son Ltd are a family business specialising in food and drink retail, wholesale and distribution and operate across the UK.