Company Fined Over Forklift Truck Fall

Misuse Of Vehicle Leads To Large Fine For Company And Boss


A company in Kent and one of its directors have been prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) over an incident in which a contractor suffered serious injuries in a four-metre fall from an unsecured platform.

Summit Chairs was taken to court by the HSE after an investigation found the platform had been balanced on the prongs of a forklift truck. The fall caused the individual, who has not been named, to suffer fractures to his right wrist and eye socket. He also sustained severe bruising in the fall in January 2013.

Although he was able to resume normal duties in due course, the worker still requires further surgery.

The accident occurred as the contractor carried out cable installation work at the company's premises in Trowbridge. A scissor lift had been kept on site for such work but was not in use. This prompted company director Roy Gurney to suggest using a metal stillage or cage raised on the forks of the truck.

Swindon Magistrates' Court heard that this was an entirely inappropriate and unsafe use of the equipment, breaking health and safety law and resulting in the accident.

As a result, Summit Chairs was fined £7,500 with £4,000 costs for breaching Section 3(1) of the
Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. Mr Gurney was fined £3,000 with £1,315 costs for the same breach.

Commenting on the case, HSE inspector Andy Shaw said: "Roy Gurney and Summit Chairs Ltd failed to properly assess the risk or plan the job accordingly.

"This case highlights the need for companies and individuals who engage contractors to ensure that working methods and equipment for work at height are safe and appropriate for the circumstances."

Noting that falls of four metres often kill, he said this incident could easily have "ended in tragedy".

HSE guidance on compliance with working at height regulations stipulates that the risks need to be fully assessed and that "appropriate work equipment is selected and used".

Expert Opinion
Falls from height are one of the most common causes of workplace injury and we see numerous cases in which workers have suffered serious long-term health problems as a result of such incidents.

"Working at height is hugely dangerous, yet time and time again we see cases where employers have failed in their duty to ensure that such work is carried out safely – whether that means providing the right equipment to workers, providing the necessary training or supervising projects correctly.

"Too many people have their lives catastrophically changed as a result of injuries at work and everything possible should be done to protect workers from such issues. Lessons need to be learned from cases of this nature to ensure people do not suffer injuries in the future."
Stephen Nye, Partner