We know that dangerous and sometimes downright stupid working practices can take place in workplaces but the following picture was caught on CCTV, showing a worker riding on the forks of a fork lift truck.
The CCTV shows the worker standing on the forks of the vehicle as it lifted him and a battery-operated pallet truck across the warehouse floor at H&A Prestige Packing Company Ltd.
As the vehicle moved, the pallet truck overbalanced and fell from the forklift. The worker tried to hold on but also lost his balance and was caught between the forks on the pallet truck. He avoided being burned by the battery acid that leaked onto the floor, but suffered bruising to his right hip and thigh.
H&A Prestige Packing was prosecuted by the HSE following the incident at its factory last year. The Court was told that the company had been hired to bottle an energy drink for export. The pallets of bottles were heavier than usual, each weighing one-and-a-quarter tonnes, so a pallet truck was used to move them inside the containers.
Not surprisingly, this practice ended badly but luckily the man avoided serious injury. What was more surprising though was that it was found that the practice had been copied from the warehouse shift manager who had stood on the prongs on the forklift on four separate occasions so that the pallet truck could be lifted in and out of the containers. It was identified that when he finished his shift at lunchtime, he allowed the man involved in the fall to take over; the incident occurred approximately 40 minutes later.
The HSE investigation found that several workers and managers had been seen standing on the prongs on forklift trucks on several occasions prior to the incident. However, the behaviour had remained unchallenged by two layers of management. Clearly this must have been an indication to the workforce that the practice was acceptable; as we routinely tell managers we work with that turning a blind eye is as good as saying “do it that way”.
H&A Prestige Packing Company Ltd pleaded guilty to single breaches of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 and the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999. The company was fined £14,000 and ordered to pay prosecution costs of £6,657 for the offences, which relate to failing to ensure the safety of workers and failing to carry out a suitable and sufficient assessment of the risks.
Clearly this worker was lucky not to have been hurt more seriously and all because the business failed to understand the risks and take action to prevent a dangerous working practice. In the UK on average, 19 deaths and more than 1,100 major injuries involving forklift trucks are reported every year. The HSE does provide information on improving safety when using forklift trucks which is available at www.hse.gov.uk/workplacetransport.