£25,000 fine for unsafe forklift trucks
A major UK manufacturer of tractors has been hit with simultaneous safety fines as it appeared in court facing two unconnected offences.
The company, based in Basildon in Essex, admitted a breach of Section 2(1) of the HSWA 1974 following a nitrogen leak that nearly suffocated an engineer, as well as another breach of the same Section for serious deficiencies in its traffic and lifting equipment management.
It also pleaded guilty to two breaches of Regulation 9(3) of LOLER 1998 - for two 'specimen' failures to perform thorough examinations on lift trucks, and one each of Regulations 21 and 28(f) of PUWER 1998, for failing to provide sufficient lighting to work and drive with.
Basildon Crown Court fined the firm £70,000 for the first case, and a total of £25,000 for the second. The nitrogen leak is outside the scope of this web site but the other charges were all part of a proactive prosecution relating to issues with the firm's traffic management. Routine inspections in 2007 found a series of failures in the company’s fleet of 90-odd fork-lift tracks alongside various other transport issues. The lift trucks were not undergoing daily, documented checks and drivers were not receiving statutory refresher training.
Worse, most of the trucks were poorly maintained on a day-to-day basis, while thorough examinations were haphazard and infrequent. There was no list of which pieces of lifting equipment had been thoroughly examined, and hence no one knew which plant was available for use.
"If plant is not thoroughly examined," the HSE said, "you just don't know whether it's safe or not. Just having it serviced is not the same thing, much like with an MOT on a car."
Other failings included a lack of segregation between plant and pedestrians in critical areas of the site including indoors, and a severe lack of lighting in places. In mitigation, the company apologised.