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Employer sentenced after worker crushed to death

Date:
23 October 2014

A North Lanarkshire employer has been fined for safety failings which led to a worker being killed after he was thrown from a forklift truck and crushed. 

David Westwater, 22, of Denny, had only been working for Basil Pinkney, in his small scaffold refurbishment business in Coatbridge, for two weeks before the incident happened on 28 August 2012. 

Airdrie Sheriff Court heard today (23 October) that Mr Westwater was driving an unladen forklift truck down a sloping access way to the front gate to see his girlfriend when she arrived to pick him up at the end of his shift. 

He made a sharp left hand turn, causing the vehicle to tip over. Mr Westwater, who was not wearing a seatbelt, was thrown to the ground and the vehicle’s protective cage fell onto his head trapping him beneath it. 

Alerted by the screams of his girlfriend, a colleague rushed to use another forklift truck to raise the vehicle to free Mr Westwater. He had suffered multiple head injuries and was pronounced dead at the scene by paramedics. 

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) revealed Mr Pinkney had failed to provide a safe system of work at the site, in that he failed to have in place a system to ensure that only suitably trained employees drove forklift trucks. 

Mr Westwater had not received any formal training on driving forklift trucks. He had been given about 20 minutes’ in-house training but this fell far short of the standard required by HSE. He had not been given adequate training in relation to the requirement to wear a seatbelt or in relation to the hazards involved in carrying out sharp turning manoeuvres. 

The court was told that during a site visit several years earlier, a HSE inspector had seen a forklift truck driven by a non-qualified driver and Mr Pinkney, who trades as B D Pinkney & Co,  was told to ensure that only those properly trained to drive the vehicle should use it. Despite this, at the time of the incident some employees who were required to drive the forklift trucks, had not undergone any external training. 

Basil ‘Bill’ Pinkney, 69, t/a B D Pinkney & Co, Unit 4, Northburn Road, Coatbridge, was fined £24,500 after pleading guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.  

Following the case, HSE Acting Head of Operations Barry Baker, said: “The tragic death of Mr Westwater could easily have been prevented. Basil Pinkney had previously been told to ensure that only employees who had been properly trained should drive his forklift trucks. On the date of the incident there were three trained forklift drivers on site so there was no need for Mr Westwater to even be on a forklift.  

“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.” 

For more information about workplace transport safety log onto the HSE website at: http://www.hse.gov.uk/workplacetransport/index.htm

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. In Scotland the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service has sole responsibility for the raising of criminal proceedings for breaches of health and safety legislation. 
  3. Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 states: “It shall be the duty of every employer to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of all his employees.” 
  4. HSE news releases are available at press.hse.gov.uk

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