Worker looses sight in fork lift accident
A South Wales firm has been fined £50,000 after a worker lost the sight in one eye when a heavy sheet of toughened glass fell on him. The company, from Port Talbot in South Wales, pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the HSWA 1974, and Regulation 3(1 )(a) of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999. Swansea Crown Court was told that the injured man, aged 38, had been disposing of a pane of waste glass when the accident took place. Prosecuting for HSE, Dale Collins said that sheets of normal glass could be safely cut up into manageable sizes and placed in skips but this was impossible for toughened glass.
As a result, an ad-hoc method was used to dispose of larger sheets of toughened glass. This involved storing them, unstrapped, on steel A-frame stillages which were then carried to the skip by lift-trucks. Employees would ride on the forks of the truck and push the panes straight into the skip. This is what the employee was doing when, it is thought, a strong gust of wind pushed him and the 80 kilo pane he was handling into a skip. He fractured his skull, needed significant facial reconstruction surgery and lost the sight in one eye.
Investigating HSE inspector Alan Strawbridge said that although the company had suitably assessed the risks for the disposal of normal glass, they had not done the same for sheets of toughened glass. In addition, workers should not have been allowed to ride on the forks of a lift-truck or be raised above a skip which amounts to an extremely unsafe system of work. Furthermore, pushing large panes of toughened glass into a steel skip causes them to smash spraying out fragments of glass - an unsafe method of disposal.
In mitigation the companysaid that its directors had generally been based in its sister company and had been unaware of the dangerous practices. They said that they had put a lot of effort into risk assessments and health and safety in other aspects of their business and had a good safety record generally. They have since started covering large panes with sticky film and breaking them apart safely. The company was fined £50,000 and ordered to pay costs of £11,171.