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Forklift accidents

Firm fined £240,000 after driver crushed to death

A Stonehaven animal feed company has been fined £240,000 after a lorry driver was crushed to death when a two-tonnes, fully-loaded grain bin fell onto him from a forklift truck.

The driver, 49, of Balmedie, worked for a feed services firm and was picking up a load from a site in Drumlithie, Stonehaven, when the incident happened on 18 March 2013.

Aberdeen Sheriff Court heard that the driver was helping with the loading operation. He was standing near the base of the grain elevator, which carries the animal feed up and drops it into a bulk transporter, and was ready to pull the lever in the grain bin to release the feed once it was in position.

The forklift driver picked up the grain bin, which weighed around 600kg and held 1.5 tonnes of feed, and raised the forks to about five and a half feet to allow better visibility as he moved forwards. However, the bin started to move on the forks and he shouted a warning, but the driver was in front of the forklift when the bin fell off the forks and struck him. He died after suffering crush injuries to his head, neck and chest.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) revealed that the company did not have in place a safe system of work for the task and operators were left to carry it out in any way they saw fit. The company had assumed the forklift training they had received from an external provider would cover safe working.

Although the company’s site rules required visiting drivers to keep away from the loading operation until advised by the forklift driver, this was not communicated to employees or drivers. As a result employees regularly allowed visiting drivers to help loading by pulling the grain bin lever to release the feed. Supervisors were on site and aware that this was happening.

HSE also found that despite previous incidents of grain bins slipping from the forks of the trucks, no mechanism or device to secure them had been installed. There was also poor visibility in the loading area where the forklifts were operating; failures in work systems and in training for employees.

Since the incident the company has stopped using metal grain bins and now only uses cloth bags. It has updated its risk assessments and work procedures and now prevents visiting drivers from assisting in lifting operations. Visiting drivers are also asked to sign that they have read the site rules.

The court heard the company had been fined £4,000 in April 2011 for a breach of Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 following an incident in which a mill operative suffered head injuries when he fell from an excavator bucket in December 2009.

The company, of Broadwood, Drumlithie, Stonehaven, Aberdeenshire, was fined £240,000 after pleading guilty to breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.

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