Worker seriously injured as stack falls on him
A white goods giant has been ordered to pay almost £40,000 in fines and costs after a court heard how a worker was seriously injured when a stack of cookers fell on him. Northampton Magistrates' Court heard that a warehouse operative was picking goods for an order at the company's distribution centre in Raunds, Northamptonshire when the accident happened in 2006.
The injured worker was using a forklift prior to the accident, but it is unclear exactly how the incident occurred, as the unnamed employee is unable to remember how it happened. However, a stack of six cookers collapsed, leaving the worker with a fractured neck and head injuries. He spent a week in hospital and was off work for around 20 weeks, although he has since returned to work at the company.
An investigation by East Northamptonshire Council, which brought the prosecution, revealed that the company had not carried out a risk assessment on the correct stacking of white goods and did not have suitable control measures in place.
Investigating health and safety officer Julia Smith said: "When we looked at the controls to prevent stacks falling, we found they were not good enough. However, if there had been certain controls in place the likelihood is the cookers would not have fallen." The company had been made aware of the dangers involving the stacking of appliances in this way by employees and council officers yet it had failed to act on these warnings the court heard. Since the investigation, the company has worked with East Northamptonshire Council to reduce the risks of stacks collapsing. "It has introduced banding, which effectively is an elastic band that fits around the machines to keep them stable" said Smith. "The company has also implemented barriers around the stacked goods so if a lift truck hits a stack, the impact is reduced preventing a collapse. Drivers of the trucks now have to wear seatbelts so if a stack does fall they remain in the vehicle and are protected."
The company was fined £16,000 under Section 2(1) of the HSWA 1974 for failing to ensure the safety of its employees and £3,000 for breaching the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 by not carrying out a risk assessment. It was also ordered to pay full costs of £20,500.
In mitigation the company, which pleaded guilty, said that a lot of companies in the industry stack white goods in the same way. It added that it has since carried out a risk assessment and implemented control measures. Julia Smith added: "It has been found recently that companies which manufacture white goods are not using racking and are just stacking goods on top of each other because there is no national safety guidance to suggest what should be done." East Northamptonshire Council is now working with the Health and Safety Laboratory to draw up some national guidance for electrical manufacturers on the stacking of white goods.