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October 11, 2013

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Employee crawled out from overturned forklift

 

A company has been ordered to pay over £28,000 after a worker narrowly avoided injury when a forklift truck overturned.
 
Midland Steel Reinforcement Supplies (GB) Limited, which supplies reinforced steel bars (rebar) to the construction industry, was prosecuted by the HSE this week (9 October) after an investigation identified safety failings.
 
Westminster Magistrates’ Court heard that the worker was told to empty bins at the site, an instruction he understood to include small skips containing offcuts of rebar.
 
He used a forklift truck to lift and move one of the skips to a larger waste container, which he balanced on the edge. He then retracted the forks of the forklift and used them to tip the skip and empty the contents within. 
 
The worker then jumped from the cab and into the waste container in order to attach a sling to the empty skip and the forks of the forklift, so that he could pull and lift the skip back out. He climbed back into the cab and attempted to do so, but the forklift overturned, with the lifting column coming to rest on the edge of the container. 
 
The fact that the forklift didn’t hit the ground created a small gap between the cab and the floor that the operator was able to crawl through.
 
The HSE found that the system and method of work was unsuitable and posed clear risk, not least because the operator of the forklift was untrained and unsupervised. Inspectors also found that he wasn’t wearing a seatbelt when the forklift overturned — making it all the more remarkable that he avoided harm.
 
Magistrates were told that a safer method was available to empty the waste steel rebars in the form of tipper skips, which were in use elsewhere at the site.
 
Midland Steel Reinforcement Supplies Ltd, of Fishers Way, Belvedere, was fined a total of £17,500 and ordered to pay £11,000 in costs after pleading guilty to breaching Regulations 4(3) and 9(1) of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998.
 
Following the hearing, HSE inspector Maria Strangward, said: “The forklift truck should have never been used to lift and manoeuvre the skip in this way. It was a system and method of work that posed clear risk, and the worker is extremely fortunate to avoid being seriously injured — possibly even killed had the forklift struck and crushed him as it overturned.
 
“The onus is on employers, like Midland Steel Reinforcement Supplies, to ensure operations are properly planned, managed and supervised, and that adequate training, instruction and equipment is provided at all times to protect workers.”

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