Head Of Training, The Healthy Work Company

April 19, 2016

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Firm fined after forklift truck operator is crushed to death

The UK’s largest structural steel firm, Severfield (UK) Limited, has been fined £135,000 following the death of a forklift truck driver, who “inexplicably reversed at speed” while not wearing a seatbelt.

27-year-old Kelvin McGibbon was reversing the forklift truck when it struck some steps causing it to overturn. He suffered crush injuries which proved fatal.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) into the incident which occurred on 13 March 2013 found that Severfield (UK) Limited failed to manage forklift truck driving operations. They did not enforce the wearing of seat-belts or control the speed at which some FLT operators drove their trucks. However, the offence to which the company pleaded guilty was not a significant cause of the fatal accident.

Prosecution

Lisa Roberts QC, prosecuting for the Health and Safety Executive, told Teesside Crown Court heard how scores of employees, tasked with undertaking 30,000 forklift truck lifts annually at the £100m turnover firm, had been “exposed to danger” as it prepared steel for projects such as Heathrow Terminal 5, Cleveland Energy from Waste Plant, the Gateshead Millennium Bridge and the London Olympic Stadium.

The court heard that employees, including the 27-year-old had often driven the diesel-powered vehicles at high speeds, operated them while chatting on mobile phones and even leapt from them while they were still moving. She added that Mr McGibbon had been warned over driving forklifts too fast.

Ms Roberts said Mr McGibbon had received several rounds of training in which he was instructed to wear a seatbelt, but the rule was never enforced by Severfield.

She added: “It is incumbent on the employer to ensure risks remain at an acceptable level.”

After Mr McGibbon’s death the firm warned staff that failure to wear a seatbelt would result in instant dismissal.

The defence

John Cooper QC, mitigating, said while the firm had not caused Mr McGibbon’s accident, Severfield had faced up to “uncomfortable truths” and had learnt lessons, enforcing rules on speeds, seatbelts and turning on slopes and introducing regular, rigorous and multi-layered safety checks.

The court heard Ian Cochrane, Severfield’s chief operating officer, claim health and safety measures were at the core of what the firm did and highlight that it had been heralded for its safety practices while constructing the London Olympic Stadium.

Sentencing

Judge Anthony Briggs said while Severfield had made clear efforts to ensure the safety of its staff, it had had a blind spot over the enforcement of wearing seat belts on forklift trucks.

He said he believed the fine, which he reduced from £300,000 after finding Severfield had taken steps to improve safety and had no previous convictions, would serve as a warning to other firms.

Severfield (UK) Limited, of Severs House, Dalton Airfield Industrial Estate, Dalton, Thirsk, North Yorkshire, pleaded guilty to a non-causative breach of Regulation 5(1) of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, and was fined £135,000 and ordered to pay costs of £46,020.

HSE inspector David Welsh said after the hearing: “A company has a legal duty for the health and safety of people working on its site, whether they are employees or not. They are required to assess risks, eliminate them where possible and enforce proper control measures, such as seat belt wear, by checking that safe driving practices are being followed to deal with the risks that remain.

“Sadly, in this case, the prosecution shows that the company’s management of FLT driving operations and risk control measures failed which exposed employees to danger.”

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Dick Dewdney
Dick Dewdney
6 years ago

Hi Lauren , many thanks for info on forklift seatbelts , I recieved it via our health and safey officer , I find it very bad that that type of accident should happen in this day and age , I had a job to start with enforcing that rule in our company for awhile until it was enforced , many thanks for a great write up .

Best Regards

Dick .