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May 21, 2009

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Workman loses leg in forklift repair incident

A workman suffered serious crush injuries after the counterbalance weight fell from a forklift truck and landed on his leg. Self-employed welder, Keith Thompson, had to have his left leg amputated, and was unable to return to work for a number of months.

The incident took place on 11 October at the premises of Pete Mellor Ltd, an agricultural contactor, in Drakelow, Derbyshire. Paul Thomas, an experienced agricultural engineer, was attempting to make repairs to the gearbox of a forklift. A customer had brought in the truck in for repair but didn’t give the engineer a manual or any paperwork about the vehicle. In order to access the gearbox Thomas needed to separate the forklift into three parts and remove the counterweight.

Keith Thompson was walking across the factory to find a notebook so that he could sign in a supplies delivery. On his way he saw Thomas working on the forklift and stopped to talk to him. Thomas continued during the conversation and began to remove bolts, which were holding the counterweight in place. When he removed the third of the four bolts the weight fell from the back of the truck and landed on Thompson’s left leg. The part weighed 1.8 tonnes and a forklift was needed to lift the weight and free Mr Thompson.

HSE inspector, Sam Farrar, told SHP: “This incident resulted from an unsafe system of work. The engineer was working on an old vehicle and had not been provided with a manual, which would have highlighted that the counterweight would not stay in place on the chassis if the bolts were removed.”

Pete Mellor Ltd appeared at Southern Derbyshire Magistrates’ Court on 14 May and pleaded guilty to breaching reg.3(1) of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999. It was fined £12,000 and ordered to pay costs of £2500.

In mitigation, the firm accepted that it had not carried out a proper risk assessment and entered an early guilty plea. It claimed it rarely undertook repairs of this nature on old forklifts. It now ensures that employees have discussions with supervisors to decide on a safe method of work before starting jobs.

Inspector Farrar said: “The weight was not supported during removal and the person carrying out the repair had been given insufficient information and instruction. Also, the injured party was allowed to walk through the work area.

“A risk assessment for the job was not carried out. A suitable and sufficient assessment would have addressed all of these issues, and a man may not have been left with a life-changing disability.”

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