Sunday, 18 May 2014

Forklift truck driver fined after causing serious injury

A forklift truck operator has been prosecuted on 8 May 2014 for safety failings after a teenager was seriously injured by a falling heater.

The circumstances were:
  • The heater weighing 493kg had been removed from a factory building and placed next to a skip.
  • On 25 June 2013, a forklift truck driver, Stephen Bellingham wanted to access this skip, as his role included sorting and loading waste into skips using a forklift.
  • He took it on himself to move the heater, but he was acting entirely independently in opting to move the unit in this way.
  • He was an experienced forklift operator, but he failed to assess the risks and possible consequences.
  • He managed to manoeuvre the unit onto the forks of the truck, but noted it was unstable and asked a passing colleague to help steady the load.
  • The co-worker held it in place as best he could, but as it was lifted it slid off and fell, landing on top of him because he unable to move away.
  • The 18-year-old worker sustained multiple fractures of his right shoulder, left shin bone and left ankle.

Stephen Bellingham, of Brooklands Road, Larkfield, was fined a nominal £270 after pleading guilty to a single breach of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.
The low penalty reflects the fact he was summarily dismissed for gross misconduct as a result of the incident, and is struggling financially because he has been unable to find alternative employment or claim any benefits since. Magistrates said a higher fine would not compensate for the suffering he has already endured because of a momentary lapse of judgement.

The HSE Inspector said:

This incident demonstrates all too clearly that a single poor decision on this occasion asking an inexperienced colleague to stand in a dangerous position to steady a large, heavy and unstable load can have devastating consequences. The young worker is fortunate to have regained full mobility, but he was unable to work for a considerable period. His ordeal should serve as a powerful reminder to all employees, particularly those in control of potentially dangerous machinery, to fully consider the consequences of their actions. Stephen Bellingham failed to do this. All lifting operations should be properly planned and assessed, and where a load appears to be unstable the operation must be stopped immediately to consider appropriate restraints or alternative methods.

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