Multi million pound turnover food manufacturer, The Sandwich Factory Holdings Ltd, and one of its directors, have been fined after a 26-year-old worker was severely injured when he was crushed by a forklift truck at its Warwickshire factory.
Leamington Crown Court heard that an agency worker was lucky to be alive after the incident at the company’s premises on the Carlyon Road Industrial Estate in Atherstone in July 2012.
He was thrown from the forks of a forklift truck and crushed between the forklift and the back of an articulated lorry as he was being lifted into the back of the lorry to reorganise pallets of sandwiches. The man broke a number of vertebrae, fractured his pelvis and suffered blood blisters all over his body.
It appears that despite its size, the business had failed to develop suitable safety systems and had very little in place to protect its workforce. The Judge identified that the director Paul Nicholson had failed to ensure safety management systems were in place at the factory.
The HSE told the court that had the business had a properly functioning safety system in place, the unsafe practice would not have occurred. It seems the business had been putting profit before safety and this situation had existed for a prolonged period of time.
The Sandwich Factory Holdings Ltd, of Sutton Fields Industrial Estate, Kingston upon Hull, pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2(1) and 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. It was fined a total of £60,000 and ordered to pay costs of £57,790.
Mr Nicholson pleaded guilty to two breaches of Section 37(1) of the same Act. He was given a conditional discharge and ordered to pay costs of £50,513.
The Judge, in sentencing, said: “The system being operated by the Sandwich Factory Limited at the time was a disaster waiting to happen. It all arose as a result for pushed growth and a desire for profitability that was given priority over the safety of employees.”
The HSE Inspector after the case commented that it was a matter of sheer luck that this incident did not result in a fatality. The man has suffered severe injuries that could have easily been prevented. The company failed to ensure that obvious risks from transport operations were controlled.
This case shows the HSE desire to not only prosecute businesses that fail to protect their workers but also individuals who are negligent. In this case Mr Nicholson in his role as director should have had adequate systems in place to ensure the safety of his workers. He neglected to do that.
The provision of a simple set of steps was all that was needed to keep the injured man and others safe.