Forklift accident

Man dies after being struck by telehandler

telescopic materials handler fatal accident28th Jan 2011: A recycling company has been fined £200,000 after a machine overturned and the loading bucket hit a man at a site in Minster, Kent.

Health and Safety Executive (HSE) prosecuted the company of Canterbury, Kent for breaching health and safety law.

Canterbury Crown Court heard on the 19 March 2007 the deceased aged 35, of Thanington, was helping to lay a new horseriding surface of crumbled rubber at Brambles Stables, Watchester Lane, Minster, Ramsgate.

A colleague was driving a telescopic materials handler - a forklift truck with an extendable arm or boom - commonly referred to as a telehandler. The vehicle was fitted with a loading bucket containing the rubber and it had extended its boom more than six metres. It was resting on its wheels and the hydraulic stabilisers fitted at the front of the machine were not being used.

The deceased walked across the path of the boom just as the telehandler reached its balance point and tipped forward. The bucket hit him on the head and forced him to the ground. The operator managed to bring the vehicle upright by lowering the front stabilisers. The worker died in hospital two days later from multiple injuries.

The telehandler was fitted with a 'Safe Load Indicator' device. These devices help operators to stay within safe limits by using a series of lights and an alarm. The Safe Load Indicator should be calibrated so that when the alarm goes off there is still sufficient capacity to prevent an overturn. The HSE investigation found that the Safe Load Indicator was not correctly calibrated and was unusable at the time.

In addition, the machine's previous safety certificate (called a Certificate of Thorough Examination) had expired prior to the incident. Although an engineer had visited on two separate occasions to inspect and repair the telehandler they were unable to complete this due to the poor condition of the machine.

The operator had not been told how much the bucket weighed when it was empty or full, or how heavy a load of crumbled rubber was. Lastly, the operator lacked understanding of the machine instructions, which showed how much it could lift and to what maximum distance the boom could be extended.

HSE Inspector John Underwood said:

"I would like to remind owners and operators of machines fitted with older style Safe Load Indicators that these need checking and recalibrating on a regular basis as some older machines do not tell the operator when they have decalibrated.

"It is vital that the owner and operator have a robust procedure to ensure workers knows how to correctly use the machine; how to recognise when it may be going out of calibration and what to do about it. Each machine should be checked by plant fitters and maintained in line with the manufacturer's recommendations".

"This was a wholly avoidable incident which led to unnecessary loss of life. I hope this fine will be an example to those involved in the use of telehandlers that machine maintenance is critical to enable safe operation."

The company pleaded guilty at a previous hearing on 30 November at Canterbury Magistrates' Court and was sentenced at Canterbury Crown Court, to breaching section 2(1) and 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and regulations 7(c) and 10(3) of the Lifting Operations and Lifting Appliances Regulations 1998. It was fined £200,000 and ordered to pay £11,384.11 in costs.