Last week I was delivering an IOSH Managing Safely training course and a number of the group worked in businesses where fork lift trucks were operated. Talking through some of the issues they faced it was clear that the old adage that people do stupid things really does happen too often.
One of the guys explained to the group that they had two employees working together; one on the fork lift truck and the other off of it. Somehow the guy on the fork lift truck managed to back up over the other guy, who sustained a broken leg.
I then took a look at this month’s HSE news stories to see that a Kent based firm (not the same one I mentioned above) has been prosecuted after a worker at its warehouse was injured after being crushed between a forklift truck and a pallet of paper goods. The incident, on 12 October 2011, was investigated by the HSE which prosecuted the company after finding that it could have been avoided if simple safety precautions had been taken.
And that’s the issue – these kinds of events really can be avoided if businesses just look to put simple safety precautions in place. The key really is to ensure that all people working on or around the fork lift trucks are properly trained to understand the risks.
As discussed at the IOSH training the benefits of ensuring that managers/supervisors responsible for such operations are trained in the safe operation of fork lift trucks makes a big difference; if they can recognise poor practices then they will be equipped to deal it.
For the Swan Mill Paper Company Ltd they appeared in Court and admitted safety failings that led to its employee, a local man, suffering several fractures to his leg and foot. The court was told that the man was in an aisle in the warehouse, taking tickets off pallets that were filled with paper goods. The pallets were then to be put on racks at either side of the aisle. A colleague using a forklift truck to stack the pallets on the right hand side of the same aisle, reversed and backed into the worker, crushing him between the truck and the pallet.
The man suffered three breaks in his right ankle as well as two fractures to his left leg. He has since returned to work at the firm on light duties.
Swan Mill Paper Company was fined £5,000 and ordered to pay £3,069 in costs after admitting a breach of the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992.
After the hearing the HSE Inspector on the case commented that the incident was entirely preventable. Swan Mill Paper Company failed to make sure that there was a safe vehicle and pedestrian system of work in place within their warehouse. Such a measure would have prevented vehicles being able to access areas where workers on foot were moving around. Such a system was entirely possible without any detriment to the work being done.
Unfortunately, where a business fails to safely control the dangers of pedestrians and vehicles interacting in the same areas, if something goes wrong it generally results in a serious injury or worse.