Company fined after forklift truck fatality

A pallet transport company has been fined after a forklift driver was killed when his forklift overturned.

Mr Reginald Bacon was working as a forklift driver at Fortec Distribution Network Limited’s pallet hub at Watling Park, Watford Village, Northamptonshire.

Northampton Magistrates’ Court heard how on 13 October 2016, Mr Bacon was unloading goods from the trailer of a large goods vehicle (LGV) and whilst his forks were inside the trailer to remove a pallet, the LGV drove forward; this caused the forklift to tip over on its side. Mr Bacon was not wearing his seatbelt correctly and tried to jump clear from his truck but sustained fatal head injuries.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that the company’s risk assessment failed to identify the risk of an LGV driving away whilst being loaded or unloaded. The company also failed to recognise that the system of work being followed was different from its documented systems of work, including the monitoring and supervision of wearing seatbelts correctly when operating forklift trucks. The system being used for moving LGV’s through their warehouse was unsafe.

Fortec Distribution Network Limited of Coronation Road, High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and was fined £107,000 and ordered to pay costs of £17,436.97.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE Principal Inspector Samantha Wells said “Dutyholders have a responsibility to devise safe methods of work, effectively risk assess and then provide this information, instruction and training to their workers.”

“The safe methods of work should be monitored and supervised by those in control, to ensure those safe methods have been implemented and are being adhered to.”

Background to risk assessments

Regulation 3 of Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations requires that employers identify any reasonably foreseeable significant risks that arise out of work activities that can affect employees and non-employees.

A risk assessment must be suitable and sufficient, significant findings recorded and kept under review.

Suitable and sufficient assessments

A risk assessment should be “suitable and sufficient” which:

  • identifies the risks arising from or in connection with work
  • ignores trivial risks and those associated with life in general
  • contains detail, proportionate to the level of risk
  • determines the sophistication of the assessment from the level of risk
  • utilises specialist advice where necessary and specialist techniques
  • identifies those persons who could be affected and the population at risk
  • uses relevant data to assist in risk identification, such as legislation, guidance, industry standards, manufacturer’s information etc.
  • is appropriate to the type of work, and
  • identifies the time period for which it is valid

Safe methods of work

Procedural controls will comprise instructions of the safe methods and sequence of work. Procedures, especially operating and maintenance procedures are important for the prevention of accidents and ill health. Written procedures are vital in maintaining consistency and in ensuring that everyone has the same basic level of information, however poor procedures can be a reason for people not following the recommended actions.

Procedures ideally need to:

  • be accurate and complete
  • be concise and clear with an appropriate level of detail
  • be current and up to date
  • be supported by training
  • identify any hazards
  • state necessary precautions for hazards
  • use familiar language
  • use consistent terminology
  • reflect how tasks are actually carried out
  • promote ownership by users
  • be in a suitable format; and
  • be accessible.

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