Bin Lorry: Driver Recruitment Criticised
3 August 2015, 15:28
An inquiry into a bin lorry crash which claimed the lives of six people has heard claims there were "significant shortcomings" in the council's recruitment procedures at the time the driver got his first job at the authority.
Harry Clarke, 58, was driving the council truck in Glasgow city centre on December 22 last year when it went out of control, with witnesses reporting that he appeared to lose consciousness at the wheel.
A fatal accident inquiry looking in to the tragedy has already heard that Mr Clarke had a history of health issues including fainting, dizziness and stress dating back to the 1970s.
And it has been told that he did not disclose his medical history when completing a health questionnaire as part of his job application to be a school bus driver for Glasgow City Council in 2010.
Dorothy Bain QC, representing the family of one of the crash victims, questioned Geraldine Ham, a human resources manager at the council, as the inquiry entered its third week.
Talking the witness through various employment documents, the lawyer put it to her: "At the stage that Mr Clarke was employed by the council to transport children with special needs, we can see significant shortcomings in the council process for recruitment."
Ms Ham said the local authority tried to ensure that the necessary employment processes were in place.
Ms Bain said the inquiry has seen that where Mr Clarke "doesn't tell the council the truth, the recruitment process was not adequate in order to prevent his employment".
The witness agreed.
The QC went on: "For that reason you would agree, I presume, that the recruitment process wasn't adequate?"
Ms Ham responded: "There's room for improvement, yes."
She also agreed that Mr Clarke would not have been given the job if the council had received full disclosure of his medical history.
Mr Clarke was first employed as a school bus driver by Glasgow City Council in January 2011 before he went for a gritting job later that year.
The inquiry was told that Mr Clarke had failed to disclose his medical history in a form completed that year when he went for promotion to driving heavier vehicles.
The inquiry heard the required health questionnaire did not contain information about Mr Clarke's past heath problems.
Ms Bain told the hearing: "What we can take from this is there has been no disclosure of relevant health issues by Mr Clarke."
The hearing was also told of a 2008 form completed by Mr Clarke before he started work with his previous employer, FirstBus.
In it, he had ticked "no" to a question on whether he had ever suffered fainting, convulsions, blackouts, seizures, head injuries, dizziness, vertigo or strokes.
He had also ticked "no" to ever having had depression, anxiety or mental illness. Ms Ham agreed that the information he supplied was not correct.
Mr Clarke had received a final written warning from his previous employer after issues with his timekeeping, the inquiry heard.
The court heard, during Ms Bain's questioning, that there was no information about Mr Clarke's medical history on his exit form from that employment.
The inquiry has previously heard from witnesses that Mr Clarke had suffered a "blackout" at the wheel of a bus in April 2010.
Erin McQuade, 18, and her grandparents Jack Sweeney, 68, and Lorraine Sweeney, 69, from Dumbarton, West Dunbartonshire, died from multiple injuries after being hit by the truck.
Stephenie Tait, 29, and Jacqueline Morton, 51, both from Glasgow, and Gillian Ewing, 52, from Edinburgh, were also killed as the lorry travelled out of control along Queen Street and towards George Square before crashing in to the side of the Millennium Hotel.
The Crown Office ordered a fatal accident inquiry (FAI) into the crash after prosecutors ruled there was no evidence to warrant criminal proceedings.