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Freight company fined £30,000 after worker hit by falling pallets

Date:
15 August 2013

A Suffolk-based freight company has been sentenced for a series of safety breaches after a forklift truck toppled and spilled its load onto a worker, breaking his back.

Neil Jennings, 56, 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 doing the loading hit a pothole. The vehicle lurched sideways, shedding its pallets and boxes, one of which hit Mr Jennings.

He suffered multiple fractures to the vertebrae of his upper and middle back and was unable to work for several weeks. Mr Jennings can now only undertake light duties and can no longer carry out everyday tasks without pain and discomfort.

The incident, on 9 January 2012, was investigated by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), which today prosecuted Eagle Freight Terminal Ltd at Ipswich Magistrates’ Court.

HSE 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.

Ipswich Magistrates’ Court 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.

Eagle Freight Terminal Ltd of Lodge Lane, Great Blakenham, Ipswich, was fined a total of £30,000 and ordered to pay costs of £4,501.23 plus £120 victim surcharge after pleading guilty to breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974, Regulation 9(1) of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998, Regulation 17(1) of the Workplace [Health, Safety and Welfare] Regulations 1992 and for failing to comply with two Improvement Notices.

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.”

Notes to editors

  1. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is Britain’s national regulator for workplace health and safety. It aims to reduce work-related death, injury and ill health. It does so through research, information and advice, promoting training; new or revised regulations and codes of practice, and working with local authority partners by inspection, investigation and enforcement. www.hse.gov.uk
  2. Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety At Work etc Act 1974 states: “It shall be the duty of every employer to conduct his undertaking in such a way as to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that persons not in his employment who may be affected thereby are not thereby exposed to risks to their health or safety.”
  3. Regulation 17(1) of the Workplace [Health, Safety and Welfare] Regulations, 1992 states: “Every workplace shall be organised in such a way that pedestrians and vehicles can circulate in a safe manner.”
  4. Regulation 9(1) of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations, 1998 states: “Every employer shall ensure that all persons who use work equipment have received adequate training for purposes of health and safety, including training in the methods which may be adopted when using the work equipment, any risks which such use may entail and precautions to be taken.”
  5. Please note the company’s fines were reduced following a sentencing appeal on 6 December 2013.

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