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Forklift accidents

Young worker killed in forklift accident

worker crushed to death by forkliftThe employers of a young man crushed to death in a lift truck accident have been fined for breaching health and safety legislation alongside the manager who condoned dangerous work practices.

Chester Crown Court heard that the deceased, aged 27, from Liverpool was a fitter at a company which made cabinets. The accident, which happened in April 2006, occurred while the fitter and his manager were trying to fix some large cabinets together using bolts placed through pre-drilled holes.

These holes did not align so the manager used a fork lift to raise one of the cabinets into position. The deceased meanwhile, climbed onto the body of the truck and leant between the mast and forks in order to line the holes up. The engine was left running throughout.

The court was told that as the two were slightly raising and lowering the forks to get the alignment right, one of the cabinets began to fall and the manager moved in to try and catch it. At that point it is thought that the deceased, who had one foot on the dashboard, stepped back onto a lever which caused the forks to rise. He was crushed in front of his workmates, suffering severe injuries to his head, chest and back. He died instantly.

The subsequent joint police and HSE investigation uncovered 'numerous' other unsafe practices employed by the staff at the company. They was duly charged with breaching Sections 2(1) and 33 of the HSWA 1974. After the case a senior officer in the Cheshire Constabulary said that some of their work practices were 'foolhardy, dangerous and illegal'.

The manager, who had a duty of care to the deceased as a fellow employee and as his direct manager and supervisor was charged with two alternative offences: manslaughter and breaching Section 7 of the HSWA. He was acquitted of manslaughter but found guilty of the HSWA offence.

Speaking after the case, investigating HSE inspector Iain Evans said: "The company had no adequate health and safety management system and a culture of not perceiving risks." "They should have provided more specific training for their lift-truck drivers, as well as general health and safety training for management" he added. It should also have updated its safety policy, which at the time of the accident had not been revised since 1998. The company, which pleaded guilty, was fined £35,000 with £5,000 costs. The manager, who pleaded not guilty, was fined £2,000 with costs of £1,000.

In mitigation, the firm said it deeply regretted the accident and that it had not been seeking to gain commercially from cutting corners. It added that it has since put control measures in place. Evans added: "This was a tragic accident which could have been avoided. Fork-lift trucks were responsible for just under 2,000 reportable incidents last year, including seven deaths". "Employers must ensure they assess the risks involved in any use of these vehicles and take appropriate steps to counter those risks. They must also provide adequate health and safety training for any employees operating fork-lift trucks."

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