Mechanic Suffers Serious Injuries In Half-Tonne Car Fall

Manchester Vehicle Salvage Company Fined For Safety Failings

03.03.2014

A Manchester-based vehicle salvage organisation has been fined £5,000 after a 22-year-old mechanic was seriously injured.

Having pleaded guilty to single breaches of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974, Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 and the Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998, North End Salvage Services was also ordered to cover court costs of £6,000.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found the unnamed worker had suffered broken bones in his back, pelvis and ribs, as well as a partially collapsed lung after a half-tonne car fell on top of him.

The vehicle was being hoisted in the air by a forklift truck and the employee was attempting to drain the fuel tank from underneath.

Usually, staff were told to use a purpose-built frame to complete this job safely, but this was not being used when the incident occurred on September 25th 2012.

It emerged that the forklift truck was in a bad condition and the car fell from the forks when the chains gave way.

The company had not carried out an annual service and HSE inspectors found the chains were rusty, links were stiff and parts of the machine were missing.

In addition to this, the horn did not work - which is dangerous, as drivers need to inform pedestrians of their presence when travelling around busy sites - there was only a low level of hydraulic oil in the tank, one of the tyres was damaged, the seatbelt was missing and the handbrake was also out of action.

A significant number of occupational accidents that lead to serious injury involve forklift trucks or other modes of transport and the HSE is keen to see businesses take their safety obligations more seriously in this area.

Speaking after the hearing at Trafford Magistrates' Court, HSE inspector Lorna Sherlock said it was "shocking" that the firm allowed such a faulty truck to be used.

"A young employee suffered severe injuries which are likely to affect him for the rest of his life because of numerous health and safety failings by North End Salvage Services," she commented.

"The company had equipment which could have been used to drain the fuel tank safely but instead it allowed a worker to stand under the vehicle while it was being lifted by a forklift truck."

Expert Opinion
This case is likely so many in which we are involved, as it highlights the devastating impact that falling objects at work can have on victims – often leaving them with life-long injuries from which they may never fully recover.

"We have repeatedly stated that employers need to make health and safety a top priority in the workplace, yet time and time again we see incidents of this nature emerge when people have been seriously hurt as a result of safety failings which should have been avoided.

"This is simply unacceptable and it is vital that all employers in the salvage industry work pay special attention to this incident, ensuring that lessons are learned from this so that others will not be injured in the future."
Stephen Nye, Partner