THE owners of the giant Home Bargains group have been hit with a bill for £200,000 for two breaches of safety regulations following the death of a driver making deliveries to their Dudley branch.

The Liverpool-based firm were not responsible for the tragedy in which 34-year-old Gary Pickering died after his head became trapped between a tail lift and the back of his lorry.

But TJ Morrris did admit two failings in the incident which lead to them being fined £50,000 and ordered to pay £150,000 costs at Wolverhampton Crown Court.

Mr Pickering’s wife Sharon said: "Gary was a much loved and devoted husband, daddy, son and brother. We miss him every day and his loss is something we will never recover from.

"We sincerely hope that all the necessary assessments and training will be afforded to the company’s other drivers as we would not wish to hear of any other family having to go through the pain and devastation of loss that we are living with.”

TJ Morris pleaded guilty to providing insufficient information for its workers about using the tail lift on the basis the tragedy was caused by a hidden fault they could not have known about.

The firm which has an annual turnover of £2billion and employees 30,000 staff also admitted not meeting its responsibility in assessing risks for employees.

Judge Amjad Nawaz imposing the penalties said the death of Mr Pickering, who lived in the Manchester area, was due to an unknown and unfortunate design fault adding: "It was not due to the company."

Andrew Langdon QC, defending, told the court: "Investigations into this incident were wrong footed for many years but a case which started with the company being blamed for the death now sees this claim no longer laid at its door but somewhere else."

He said there was no indication in the users' manual for what was a potentially dangerous feature in the tail lift which was otherwise thought to be operated manually.

Kevin Hegarty QC, prosecuting, accepted the pleas put forward by the company and said: "The incident that lead to the death was caused overwhelmingly by the closure of the tail lift in an unexpected way."

Mr Pickering had been making a delivery to the firm's Dudley store in the Churchill Precinct in September 2013 and he backed his lorry too close to a wall for him to comfortably operate the tail lift while standing next to the controls at the rear of his vehicle.

Mr Hegarty said he stood on the shop's raised metal delivery floor and when the tail lift jammed partially open he leant forward to push a control button.

Neither he or his employers realised the manoeuvre would would quickly slam shut the tail lift by activating a hydraulic travel lock not visible to the driver. His head became trapped and he died from asphyxia.

His body was found around two hours later by a security guard on patrol around the centre.

The judge was told TJ Morris were now looking to recover losses from the manufacturers of the tail lift which were incurred as a result of them initially feeling they were responsible for the death of Mr Pickering.

Speaking at the end of the trial, Councillor Gaye Partridge, Dudley Council cabinet member for communities, said: "When there has been a failure to protect workers from serious risk it is our responsibility as a health and safety enforcing authority to take action and employers need to understand that if they do not conduct adequate risk assessments and provide their employees with the appropriate information and training that the employer will be held to account."