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May 21, 2012

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Forklift driver crushed underneath unstable storage stack

A haulage company has been fined £25,000 after a worker was crushed to death when a row of steel coils collapsed like dominos and trapping him underneath.

Alan Burr, 52, worked as a forklift driver at ABC (Grimsby) Ltd’s warehouse at Henderson Quay, Immingham Docks, in Grimsby. On 27 January 2010, he was stacking narrow-banded coils on rolls in batches of four or five, with a gap between each coil. Each coil measured five feet in diameter and weighed approximately one tonne. Mr Burr was standing between two of the rolls to repair damaged wrapping when one of them toppled, causing a domino effect in the stack. He was trapped underneath the fallen stack and died at the scene from crush injuries.

The HSE’s investigation learned that Mr Burr had worked for the company for more than 20 years, and the method for stacking the coils was commonly used by both Mr Burr and his colleagues.

HSE inspector Denise Fotheringham explained that the stacking method was completely unsuitable, as the stacks were unstable because there was nothing holding them in place. She went on to say that the company had failed to identify the risks presented by this method of work, and should have installed coil racks so the items could be stored safely.

“Mr Burr was simply trying to do a good job and repair a tear in the polythene wrapping but it had these dreadful consequences,” said inspector Fotheringham. “Narrow-banded coils can be unstable when stored on roll end, as they can collapse in a domino effect and that, very sadly, is exactly what happened. 

“ABC had been storing this type of steel coil since April 2009, but had given no training to employees about how to handle and store them safely. This loss of life could have been avoided if sufficient instruction, training and the provision of inexpensive coil racks – which work on the same simple principle as a toast rack – had been provided by the company.”

ABC (Grimsby) Ltd appeared at Grimsby Crown Court on 17 May and pleaded guilty to breaching s2(1) of the HSWA 1974, and reg.3(1) of the MHSWR 1999. In addition to the fine it was ordered to pay £20,000 in costs.

In delivering his sentence, Judge Simon Jack accepted the firm had a good safety record prior to the incident. He examined the firm’s financial means and decided against imposing a larger fine, which would have risked the company going into liquidation, as it had recently lost a large contract with ConocoPhillips. He said: “I don’t believe it should be forced into liquidation and I suspect Mr Burr would not have wanted that.”

Mr Burr’s widow Mandy said it was hard to explain the loss she and her family have suffered. She said: “Losing Alan was one of the worst days I can ever remember. Alan and I had planned to grow old together and always be there for each other, but that was taken away in a split second. 

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Bob
Bob
9 years ago

Regardless of the method of work, if any resultant impact or displacement of a stationary load can thereafter have a domino effect on adjacent loads/structutres etc, is this not to be avoided where practicable?

The man died from crush injuries caused by this domino effect, which increased the loading and momentum of impact due to the collective mass at point of impact.

The posistioning and stacking of any load(s) would require similar risk avoidance from such domino effect ?

Bob
Bob
9 years ago

Read above –

the method for stacking the coils was commonly used by both Mr Burr and his colleagues – the stacking method was completely unsuitable.

This implies that this unsafe method of staking was Common in use. This further implies that it was tolerated by the management whom are to monitor the work place for compliance to a SSoW and in accordanec to adequate risk control? And they also failed to adopt coil racks which eradicate the risk.

All aggravating factors in an avoidable incident

Bob
Bob
9 years ago

With 20 yrs experience I doubt this was the first time this poor chap had stacked them in such a fashion. I doubt he woke up that morning and decided to ignore a safe system of work just for a change.

Experience does not eradicate errors of judgment, however training and repetition of a proven SSoW controls risk.

If he was unaware of the risk or ignored the risk, as had evidently been allowed previously, it becomes evident that the risk was inadequately controlled by the Duty Holder.

Bob
Bob
9 years ago

Offence – Section 3 of the MHSW Regulations implies that they did not aknowledge or control the risk.

Also stated above is the evidential fact that employees had placed these coils in a similar fashion previously.

No prosecution would have followed Sec 3 MHSW unless corrobarated by witness statements and documented evidence. I.E. a risk assessment, and instruction of this said RA to those engaged in the task.

To blame the individual is to ignor both the facts and the duty of care owed?

Bob
Bob
9 years ago

Its a pity that it was not him or her undertaking the task. This chap might not be dead then?

Could have been good fortune for all I know, few others knew as is evidenced by the statements confirming this task having been undertaken previously by adoption of an unsafe system of work.

Management failure to adopt instruct and supervise safe systems of work as identified by the risk assessment requirement is not an individual error. Its evidence of a system failure?

Stand corrected on Sec 3.

Eetaylor
Eetaylor
9 years ago

The picture does not tell the whole story. In the background we see narrow-band coils stored correctly; i.e. stored ‘bore vertical’ or flat. This indicates that the risk of narrow banded coils tipping over if stored on the ‘bore horizontal’ plane was known and understood by the workforce. It is likely the domino effect was the result of a single coil tipping over; but it was probably not directly the cause of death. More likely it was an unsafe method of work that led to the man being crushed.

Eetaylor
Eetaylor
9 years ago

Bob, my point is that we can see (from the photograph) that it was known how these narrow-banded coils should be safely stacked – flat.

This being the case it is very unlikely that the Employer would have then instructed the Warehouse Operatives to then stack the coils in the manner that they did (bore horizontal). It is therefore likely that they (the Warehouse Operatives) chose to carry out the work in this way, leading to unsafe, unacceptable storage conditions.

Eetaylor
Eetaylor
9 years ago

Bob, you appear to want to place all responsibility and accountability for this accident at the feet of the Employer; whereas we know that safety and safe working as a shared responsibility.

As the article states these are very experienced warehouse operatives (20 years experience) and again I make the point they knew how to stack these types of loads correctly and safely, as can be seen in the background of the photograph. Stacking the coils bore-vertical would also have eradicated the risk.

Eetaylor
Eetaylor
9 years ago

Bob, you must agree someone in the warehouse did know about the risk of coils toppling as the picture undeniably shows other coils stacked correctly and safely and without the need of coil racks. What then was the Warehouse Supervisor up to?
You refer to sect 3 of the MHSWR when you mean regulation 3 – and if a suitable Risk Assessment is not in place then yes the Employer is wholly accountable for that failing. However workplace health and safety is a shared (but not equal) responsibility.

Eetaylor
Eetaylor
9 years ago

Paul, I agree £20K does not reflect the value of life. You must agree that this case was heard in the Crown Court and the Judge could have awarded much sterner penalty if he wanted to, but the Judge took account of the good safety record of the company. There was no prosecution by the CPS under section 37 of the HSWA’74 (presumably based on the advice for the HSE) and no case under section 2(3) of the HSWA’74 as regards H&S Policy. With regards to jail, yes, definitely; where appropriate I agree

Eetaylor
Eetaylor
9 years ago

Bob, I agree with you, I too believe there was a failure to safely supervise the work. With regards to your comments; you should note there was no prosecution of this employer under sections 2(2) (a) to (e) of the HSWA’74. These specific sections of the Act would have been closely scrutinized by the HSE & CPS before deciding on the charges. The offence on the part of the Employer was that of failing to carry out suitable and sufficient risk assessment; leading to a charge under s2(1) of the Act.

Elloboda
Elloboda
9 years ago

20 grand for a life with respect to the poor chap who lost his life but no wonder the company did not up date its already out of date health and safety policy. if thats all they got. do not want to start throwing custard about but a prison sentence would not go a miss on the odd occasion for some of these people it might make other companys think on.

Ray
Ray
9 years ago

In Bob’s defence, the primary duty for a SSoW lies with the employer, via proper instruction, training and supervision. Moreover, providing the proper equipment to store these coils should have prevented the fatality.

If, the victim knew no different, he would not have been aware of the danger he had placed on himself by standing between the unsuported coils – ultimately costing him his life. You cannot blame the victim for his lack of awareness – but you can blame the employer.