A timber company has been fined after an employee was run over by a forklift truck. The court heard that the man was walking alongside the forklift to steady a pallet of fencing being transported at Jon Walker Timber Product Ltd’s yard in Calverton, when the incident happened.
He suffered leg fractures, broken and dislocated toes and deep grazing. He was hospitalised for 12 days and unable to work for a number of months. He has not returned to the company.
A HSE investigation found a number of failings at the company; including no safe system of work for transporting pallets through the yard. A risk assessment had not been carried out and employees had not been provided with adequate training, information or instruction. Additionally the forklift driver’s licence had expired four months prior to the incident and forklifts were operated by other unlicensed drivers.
It became clear that pedestrians and vehicles should not have been working in such close proximity.
All of this might sound like a business that did not know about health & safety and what it needed to do to protect its workers and the business. However in court it was shown the firm had been issued with an Improvement Notice in 2001 for a lack of risk assessments, and written advice had previously been given by HSE on workplace transport issues, including forklift driver training.
Clearly not knowing is dangerous but to be told and then fail to respond is very poor and we are surprised the business; Jon Walker Timber Products Ltd, was only fined £15,000 and ordered to pay £9,850 costs.
The HSE inspector leading the case commented the incident could so easily have resulted in a fatality and was entirely preventable.
It appears that it had become custom and practice that when pallets were leaning or unstable, for employees to walk alongside forklift trucks to hold the loads steady. It was this unsafe practice that led to serious injury. If this type of event could happen in your workplace perhaps it’s time to revisit your risk assessments and rethink the training provided to employees.