Contractor Prosecuted Over Worker Crush Death

HSE Prosecution Follows Forklift Truck Death

24.10.2014

A company in North Lanarkshire has been prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) after the death of one of its staff in a forklift truck accident.

Basil Pinckney had only taken on 22-year-old Adam Westwater as an employee in his small scaffold refurbishing firm in Coatbridge - B D Pinckney and Co - a fortnight before the tragedy in August 2012.

Mr Westwater had been driving an unloaded forklift truck down a sloping access way at the end of his shift when he turned right and the vehicle toppled over.

Airdrie Sheriff Court heard that Mr Westwater was not wearing a seatbelt at the time and fell out of the truck, with it landing on top of him, causing serious crush injuries. A colleague was alerted by Mr Westwater's girlfriend, who had arrived to meet him, and he used another forklift to lift the first vehicle out of the way.

Despite his colleague's actions, the crush injuries proved fatal and paramedics pronounced Mr Westwater dead at the scene.

An HSE investigation found the deceased had only been given 20 minutes of instruction in using a forklift truck and no formal training, which was not adequate to meet HSE standards.

The court also heard that the HSE had encountered an unqualified driver operating a forklift truck while working for Mr Pinckney a few years before, leading to him being instructed to ensure only those accredited to drive such vehicles were allowed to do so.

Basil Pinckney, trading as B D Pinkney & Co, pleaded guilty to a breach of Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.  He was fined £24,500.

Commenting after the case, HSE acting head of operations Barry Baker said: “Every year there are serious and sometimes fatal incidents involving forklift trucks. It was entirely foreseeable that there was a risk of death or serious injury in allowing an inexperienced and untrained driver to operate a forklift truck.  

“Mr Westwater should not have been allowed to operate any of the forklift trucks on site until he had been properly trained to do so.”

According to HSE figures, 15 people were killed by accidents with involving vehicles in the workplace in 2012-13.

Expert Opinion
This tragic accident is yet another example of an incident in which a worker has lost their life due to serious safety failings that could easily have been avoided. We have seen first-hand, through representing numerous families who have lost loved ones in similar circumstances, the devastating consequences safety failings can have.

"It is vital this tragic case acts as a reminder to all employers of the need to plan work, with the aim of understanding the risk workers are exposed to and that they are provided with the correct instructions and training to carry out their work safely. As this terrible accident at work demonstrates, the failure to carefully consider health and safety at work can have significant consequences for employees."
Stephen Nye, Partner