Forklift accidents

Company back in court for safety failings

June 25th 2014. A Tyneside company has appeared in court for safety breaches for the second time in less than a year after a forklift truck overturned at its factory in Burnopfield.

The driver, a 51-year-old agency worker was fortunately not injured in the incident on 27 June 2012 and returned to work to finish his shift.

However, Peterlee Magistrates’ Court heard today the incident was reported as a dangerous occurrence and investigated by the Health and Safety Executive which prosecuted the company.

HSE found the forklift truck had been driven, during a night shift, on a totally unsuitable outside path. The path was only 40cm wider than the truck, and was raised above the adjacent ground in places along its length of some 150 metres.

The driver was not assessed or authorised to operate the truck and had not been made familiar with the controls. It was also found that the agency worker had been taken on as a cleaner with no requirement for him to operate a forklift truck.

The company was served with an Improvement Notice to make modifications to the path to make it safer to use.  As a result, a number of improvements were made, including widening the path to 2.2 metres, levelling it off, clearer marking of pedestrian routes and improved warning signs. The path was also designated one-way and restricted to day shift only.

The court was also told that magistrates had fined the company £2,000 in October last year after it admitted breaching Section 2(1) of Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 following an incident in February 2012, when a worker’s hand was badly crushed in a machine on which a safety guard had been deliberately disabled.

The company of, Hobson Industrial Estate, Burnopfield, Newcastle, was fined a total of £5,000 (£2,500 for each offence) and ordered to pay £3,824.45 costs after pleading guilty to two offences of breaching Section 2(1) and Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. 

After the case, HSE Inspector Cain Mitchell said: “This incident was entirely preventable and it is extremely fortunate that the driver was not seriously injured.  The company had failed to adequately assess the risks to employees using this path and the operator in this instance had received no training at all in the use of a forklift truck. The case is all the more serious as it is the second time in less than a year that the company has been prosecuted for safety failings".