Forklift Fatality Commercial Business Hit With Financial Sanction

In April 2023 the Health and Safety Executive through the Birmingham Magistrates Court handed down its judgment to a commercial paint-making enterprise whose actions violated its health and safety obligations after a forklift vehicle crashed into a workforce member resulting in physical crush-related harm to his limbs and specifically his leg. The authorities assessed the evidence and imposed a financial sanction in an amount over thirty thousand pounds.      

What Happened In The Case?

The forklift vehicle operator was collaborating with a new starter at a Clitheroe workplace and they seem to have been maintaining a commercial forklift vehicle. More particularly the colleagues were working together and trying to rectify a defect in the steering mechanism. All was progressing until matters went downhill quickly when the more senior member of staff communicated with the new starter to press the accelerator and drive the forklift vehicle forwards. 
However, the forklift operator pressed the incorrect pedal and drove the vehicle in the opposite direction into a serious collision with the senior colleague positioned behind the commercial vehicle. During the incident which had taken place within the working environment on that fateful day, the colleague ended up becoming stuck between the vehicle designed for forklift purposes and a trailer positioned nearby. Despite the best efforts of the medics at a local medical facility they were unable to assist, could not revive him and he sadly succumbed to his injuries the next day.           

What Did The Health and Safety Executive Say?

Whilst the business claimed it had operated the vehicle in strict compliance with the legal standard the regulatory authorities poured cold water over its story. The HSE was damning over the events which had taken place during the accident. The body seemingly felt compelled to launch a probe into the circumstances of the incident and when it did so it discovered evidence that appeared to suggest that the commercial vehicle which was designed by the manufacturer for forklift purposes was more than three decades old. On closer inspection, it was discovered that the vehicle at the center of the proceedings had not seemingly undergone any form of renovation work for a substantial period. Further, inquiries appeared to reveal that the business had over a lengthy period neglected its legal and regulatory duties to adhere to the Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations which are otherwise known by their abbreviated form LOLER. There was no ascertainable evidence available at the premises suggesting that the business proprietors had either carried out the maintenance to the industrial vehicle in a suitable location or segregated persons on foot from those operating the industrial equipment.        

Feet to the Fire?

The Crewe Magistrates Court convicted the business of violating section 2 of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 obliging employers to safeguard the health, wellbeing, and safety of colleagues and members of the public. Due to the seriousness, the authorities imposed a financial sanction of over thirty-thousand pounds.  

Lessons Learned?

Businesses with staff operating forklift vehicles need to be: 
-    ensuring a suitable place is provided to carry out day to day working activities
-    providing members of the workforce with suitable training so they know how to operate commercial machinery under the pressure of the day to day working environment
-    segregating members of the workforce serving on foot from those operating commercial vehicles and
-    reducing the likelihood of crashing into their colleagues.  
Such actions and workforce training may mitigate the risk of similar accidents happening. 
If you have experienced something similar, or have an opposing viewpoint, please kindly leave a comment on the article or contact us.   
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