Timber Firm Prosecuted Over Forklift Injury

Nottingham Company Fined Over Serious Workplace Accident

05.08.2014

Dave Grimshaw, Press Officer | 0114 274 4397
A Nottingham-based timber firm has been prosecuted after one of its staff was run over by a forklift truck.

The incident occurred in July 2012 when James Abrahams, an employee of Jon Walker Timber Product, was walking alongside the vehicle to steady a fencing pallet being transported across the site in Calverton.

However, the vehicle ran across his path, leaving him with fractures to his leg, breaks and dislocations to his toes, and grazes. The 21-year-old was hospitalised for a period of 12 days and unable to work for several months. When he recovered, he opted not to return to the firm.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found the company had not established a safe system of transporting pallets across the yard, had not carried out a risk assessment and did not give employees the training or information they needed to carry out such operations safely. One specific shortcoming was that the company had failed to ensure pedestrians and vehicles were kept apart.

In addition to this, forklift drivers were operating vehicles without being licensed to do so. This included the operator of the truck involved in the accident, whose licence had expired four months beforehand and not been renewed.

Nottingham Crown Court also heard that Jon Walker Timber Products had been issued with an improvement notice in 2001 due to a lack of risk assessments and had been written to by the HSE regarding the issues of transport around the site.

The company pleaded guilty in the hearing to breaches of section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 and Regulation 3(1)(a) of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999. It was fined £15,000 with costs of £9,850.

HSE inspector Samantha Farrar said: "This incident could so easily have resulted in a fatality and was entirely preventable.

"It had become the usual procedure, 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."

According to HSE figures, forklift trucks are involved in a quarter of all workplace accidents.

Expert Opinion
Accidents involving heavy machinery, such as forklift trucks, are some of the most common causes of workplace injuries and we have seen a number of cases where employees have suffered serious long-term health problems as a result of such incidents. In this case poor health and safety measures led to a worker suffering serious injuries and being unable to work for a long period of time.

“Working with heavy machinery is extremely dangerous, yet we consistently see cases where employers have failed to ensure work at their premises is carried out safely. It is often difficult for the families involved to come understand how the accident happened as many are entirely avoidable. Proper risk assessments are essential in protecting employees from injury, especially when dealing with potentially dangerous equipment such as forklift trucks. It is vital employers learn from HSE prosecutions such as this one and work to provide staff with the correct equipment, training and supervision to prevent similar incidents from taking place in the future.”
Stephen Nye, Partner