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Firm fined £300,000 after forklift accident

forklift truck hits womanA company has been ordered to pay more than £300,000 after a woman had her leg crushed by a forklift truck at a warehouse in Stone, Staffordshire.

Team Leader Debra Thorpe was airlifted to hospital and has required thirteen operations on her leg after being hit by the truck at the Owlett-Jaton warehouse on the Stone Business Park.

Sentencing the company, District Judge Jack McGarva, said it was a tragic case in which a longstanding employee suffered life changing injuries.
The Newcastle Under Lyme court was told that Ms Thorpe was returning on foot from the toilets on the warehouse floor to where she worked on the mezzanine floor when she was struck by the vehicle.

Tony Watkin, prosecuting for Stafford Borough Council, said she required a metal plate in her leg and skin grafts, received therapy for post-traumatic stress disorder and will be left with a permanent disability because of the accident. He continued:“ It is plainly the case that the accident was caused by a failure to properly assess the risks posed of the use of fork lift trucks in areas where pedestrians were likely to be and to take proper measures to guard against accidents of precisely the kind that was caused to Ms Thorpe.“Her accident was entirely foreseeable and entirely preventable.”

Hexstone Ltd – trading as Owlett-Jaton – admitted to breaches of the Health and Safety at Work Act last September. They were fined £300,000 and ordered to pay £7,424 costs with a victim surcharge of £120 when they appeared before the court.

The court heard the company employs around 300 people and describes itself as the largest supplier of fasteners, fixings and hardware products to the distributor and merchant trade in the UK. The warehouse in Opal Way, Stone is 250,000 sq metres and operates 24 hours a day.

Ms Thorpe, aged 58, had worked there since 2004 and spent four weeks in hospital following the accident.
The court was told since the incident dedicated walkways had been newly painted on the warehouse floor, a new crossing had been installed, a ‘caution’ tape barrier system had been introduced, and the shelving had been reorganised to provide better visibility.

Christian Du Cann, defending the company, said they had admitted the offence at the first opportunity and had co-operated fully with the investigation – and told the court following an inspection in 2005 they had been ‘commended’ for the safe system of work they had in place.

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