Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Freight Handling and Warehousing Company Fined £50,000 for Breaching Legislation

Forklift Striking Ignored Pothole Broke Man's Spine
Shipping News Feature

UK – A recent prosecution casts a light on a problem which is often present at road haulage depots where vehicles are loaded in open yards which are not properly maintained. Suffolk based transport and warehousing services company, Eagle Freight Terminal Ltd, has been sentenced for a series of safety breaches after a forklift truck toppled and spilled its load onto a worker, breaking his back. The firm was fined a total of £50,000 and ordered to pay costs of £4,501.23 plus £120 victim surcharge after pleading guilty to breaching the Health and Safety at Work Act and failing to comply with two Improvement Notices. 

Ipswich Magistrates' Court heard how on January 9, 2012, 56-year-old Neil Jennings, of Ipswich, was waiting for his trailer to be loaded in the yard of Eagle Freight Terminal Ltd at its Great Blakenham premises when one of the forklifts involved in the loading struck a pothole. The vehicle lurched sideways, shedding its pallets and boxes, one of which hit Jennings. He suffered multiple fractures to the vertebrae of his upper and middle back and was unable to work for several weeks. Jennings can now only undertake light duties and can no longer carry out everyday tasks without pain and discomfort.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE), an independent watchdog for work-related health, safety and illness, which investigated the incident, found that the freight yard road surface was pitted with potholes and had been the subject of complaints by the company's employees over a significant period. There was little management of traffic movements and no instructions provided regarding segregation of workplace transport and pedestrians.

The court was told that two Improvement Notices were served by HSE on Eagle Freight after the incident requiring them to remedy the condition of the yard's surface and to introduce systems of control which would allow vehicles and pedestrians to circulate safely at the site. Despite two extensions of time to allow the remedial work to be completed, an inspection carried out in September 2012 revealed no work had been completed and neither of the Notices had been complied with. The court also heard that the company had been subject to similar enforcement action by HSE as far back as 2002/3 about the lack of control of workplace transport. After the case, HSE Inspector Paul Grover, said:

"This was an entirely preventable injury caused by persistent disregard by Eagle Freight of basic safety measures. The company allowed the yard's surface to deteriorate so badly that forklift trucks were regularly destabilised when carrying loads. There was also no system to allow vehicles and pedestrians to move safely around each other and the forklift truck driver had not been given suitable training which resulted in him using unsafe work practices where the truck was driven with the forks and load lifted.

"The company's subsequent repeated failure to meet the requirements of the two improvement notices demonstrated their complete disregard for their legal responsibility to keep their employees, and non-employees visiting the site, safe. The risks of serious injury and, all too frequently, death, resulting from the failure to control the safe movement of vehicles and pedestrians are widely recognised. Putting safe working practices in place is often simple and inexpensive and where this doesn't happen the costs, both financial and personal, can be immense."

Photo: A problem which is found wherever forklifts are asked to perform in less than ideal conditions. This shot from a South American haulage yard.