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October 7, 2008

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Firm and director knew of raised-load risks

A driver was thrown through the windscreen of his container-handling vehicle (CHV) when the back lifted up while he was lowering its load.

Leeds Magistrates’ Court heard on 15 September that the agency worker had been manoeuvring the vehicle down the yard of Leeds firm, London Container Services, on 22 May 2007, with a 40-foot-long container raised five-containers high to a height of 50ft. The vehicle ‘nosedived’ after the back of the CHV lifted up.

The load and mast hit the ground and the driver fell 30ft through the windscreen, sustaining a broken bone in his foot, cuts to his hands, bumps and cuts to his head, and severe bruising. He needed 20 stitches in the back of his right leg.

The court was told the supplier of the vehicle had given specific written advice to LCS and its director, Terence Lee, about the dangers of travelling with a raised load. To compound matters, the narrow aisles at the site made it difficult for drivers to travel with containers at a safe height.

LCS pleaded guilty to breaching s2(1) of HSWA 1974 by not ensuring its employees’ safety — fine £13,000 — and reg.9(1) of of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 (PUWER) by not ensuring that all people using CHVs on site were adequately trained in their use — fine £3300. The HSE was awarded full costs of £3336.

Lee pleaded guilty to an offence under s37 of HSWA, in that the s2(1) offence was committed with his consent or connivance or was attributable to his neglect. He was fined £800, with full costs of £175.

Mitigation put forward by LCS and Lee included their early guilty pleas; their full cooperation with HSE recommendations following the incident; and their prompt compliance with the steps required by Improvement and Prohibition Notices served by the inspector. The firm had no previous health and safety prosecutions. The court heard that LCS is in the process of ceasing to trade for reasons unconnected with this prosecution.

HSE inspector Andrew Denison commented: “Workplace transport is the second biggest cause of fatal accidents in the workplace, and vehicle-overturning is one of the main causes. It was fortunate that the driver’s injuries were not more severe.

“This accident resulted from management failings by LCS and Mr Lee. It was entirely avoidable — immediately after, and at little cost to LCS, it reorganised activities in its yard to ensure that containers could be transported at a safe height.

He concluded: “I hope that those firms involved in handling containers take note of, and apply, the lessons arising from this case.”

Approaches to managing the risks associated Musculoskeletal disorders

In this episode of the Safety & Health Podcast, we hear from Matt Birtles, Principal Ergonomics Consultant at HSE’s Science and Research Centre, about the different approaches to managing the risks associated with Musculoskeletal disorders.

Matt, an ergonomics and human factors expert, shares his thoughts on why MSDs are important, the various prevalent rates across the UK, what you can do within your own organisation and the Risk Management process surrounding MSD’s.

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