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February 6, 2009

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High-street retailer failed to enforce lift-riding ban

A Marks and Spencer (M&S) employee had part of a toe amputated after his foot was crushed by a scissor lift.

Milton Keynes Magistrates’ Court heard that Timothy Page was working at the M&S warehouse in Milton Keynes when the accident occurred on 5 March 2007. He was attempting to use a scissor lift to bring a waste receptacle into the warehouse from the yard.

Mr Page put the load in position and then stepped on to the platform and told a colleague to operate the lift. While the scissor lift was ascending, from yard level up into the loading bay, his left foot became trapped in a recess, and it was crushed as the lift continued to ascend. He was rushed to hospital where, owing to the severity of the injury, doctors were forced to amputate the tip of his big toe.

Investigators from Milton Keynes Council found that the lift was missing a gate plate, which had created the recess. Council environmental health officer, Martin Brown, who investigated the case, told SHP: “This accident would not have occurred if the company and, consequently, management had ensured that the lift was used for ‘goods only’ as designated. Also, the company should have maintained the lift in an efficient state and in good condition. The combination of poorly-maintained equipment, inadequate pre-use checks, and a written rule that was not enforced directly resulted in this preventable accident.”

M&S appeared in court on 30 January and pleaded guilty to breaching s2(1) and s33(1)(a) of the HSWA 1974. Magistrates fined the firm £20,000 and ordered it to pay costs of £11,113.

In mitigation, M&S highlighted that it had entered an early guilty plea and told the court that this was the first time that it had been prosecuted over a safety issue. The firm now offers operational training to staff who use scissor lifts, and it now supervises these operations to ensure that no staff ride on the lifts.

Summing up, the magistrates’ chair, Marie Brock, stated: “M&S failed to carry out a proper risk assessment and to display the correct signage to warn employees that riding on the lifts is prohibited.”


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