Worker killed by falling stack of rag bales
11th Feb 2013. A West Yorkshire textile firm has been ordered to pay more than £115,000 in fines and costs for safety breaches that led to a worker being crushed and killed by a falling stack of rag bales. A forklift truck operator aged 61, died in hospital just hours after the incident at the warehouse in Castle Bank Mills, Wakefield, on 22 February 2010. The deceased, who had been with the firm for five years, was struck by the top two bales of rags each weighing more than 300kg, when a column of bales collapsed.
The company was sentenced for a serious breach of safety legislation at Leeds Crown Court in proceedings brought by the Health and Safety Executive. The company had pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing. The court was told that the deceased, of Wakefield, was an experienced forklift operator who worked in the firm's rag bale warehouse.
On the day of the incident, he was standing next to a five-metre high column of bales while making a phone call to a supervisor. A colleague was operating a forklift nearby in the process of moving some of the bales. The column suddenly toppled toward his colleague's truck but the top two bales fell in the opposite direction and struck the deceased who had been out of sight behind the column. He was taken to Hospital but was pronounced dead the same day.
HSE found that the company had stacked the rag bales unsafely, using vertical columns, which were inherently unstable, rather than tiered stacking. It had failed to consider the risks posed by the unstable columns to employees walking around the warehouse, and failed to put effective measures in place to control the pedestrian activities around the warehouse.
The company, of Portobello Road, Wakefield, was fined £100,000 and ordered to pay full costs of £15,839 for a breach of Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.