Young man is killed standing on forklift forks
The dangers of standing on the forks of a lift truck have been highlighted in court once again, following a tragedy in which a young father was crushed to death against a lorry. The deceased, who was 22 when he died, was killed in February 2007 at a Council's depot while unloading wheelie bins from the back of a container lorry. He was riding on a fork-lift's forks at the rear of a delivery truck, in order to reach and remove the strapping holding the bins together.
Plymouth Crown Court was told that this practice apparently took place quite regularly, and the deceased was not the only man to have done it. His colleague driving the lift truck was not authorised to drive the vehicle, and was apparently unfamiliar with the controls on the type in use at the depot. When the accident happened, the driver had intended to raise the forks, but instead set the lift truck moving forwards, crushing the deceased against the truck.
Simon Jones, who investigated for the HSE, said that this inherently unsafe practice had happened on at least six previous occasions involving various different staff, and that it represented a 'systemic failure' in the council's safety regime. Safety on site was managed very poorly - there was no suitable and sufficient risk assessment for the unloading job on this particular type of lorry, no safe system of work and no monitoring, any of which would have demonstrated the hazards in the practice.
The fork-lifts were not controlled or monitored in their use either, with keys being regularly left in the ignition, and trucks left around on site - allowing an unauthorised user to go about the loading process. Furthermore, training on lift trucks for staff was also lacking.
"We aren't talking about a one-off incident that slipped through the net here," said Jones. "We are talking about numerous container lorries being driven into a busy depot. Fork-lift trucks are heavy bits of kit which need to be driven by trained operatives in a controlled manner. Given their weight and power they are unforgiving machines," he added. The council pleaded guilty to a charge under Section 2(1) of the HSWA 1974, and was hit with a fine of £75,000, as well as £16,733 costs. In mitigation, the council said it regretted the incident and had co-operated with the investigation. It also confirmed that it had made significant changes to its safety policies.