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Safety and Health Practitioner (SHP) is first for independent health and safety news.
July 16, 2009

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If it’s not safe for Mohammed to go to the mountain. . .

A warehouse operation in which a man was raised up in a crate on the forks of a lift-truck ended in tragedy when he plummeted 15 feet to the ground and sustained serious leg injuries.

The incident occurred on 11 June 2008 at the Hull premises of Victoriaplumb.com, a subsidiary company of bathroom retailer, Victoria Plum Limited. Employee Christopher Scott was counting stock in the warehouse in Amsterdam Road. To access items stored on racking a three-sided wooden cage (in the foreground of the photo) normally used for containing waste was placed on the forks of a lift-truck. Mr Scott climbed into it and was raised 12-15 feet up to the racking above.

He subsequently fell out of the crate on to the floor below and suffered extensive damage to his knee and foot, leaving him unable to carry out work of a heavier manual nature, or which required prolonged standing, walking, or climbing of ladders.

On 14 July 2009, Victoria Plum Limited pleaded guilty to three health and safety offences at Hull Magistrates’ Court. It was fined £6000 for breaching section 2(2) of the HSWA 1974 by failing to protect its employee from risks to his safety; £3000 for failing to carry out a suitable and sufficient risk assessment in relation to forklift-truck operations, as required under reg.3(1) of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999; and £3000 for breaching reg.3 of RIDDOR 1995, for failing to report the incident. It was also ordered to pay £1500 in costs to Hull City Council, which brought the prosecution.

In sentencing, the court took into account the company’s early guilty plea, the fact that this was its first health and safety offence, and that measures have since been put into place to more effectively manage health and safety on the premises, including a proper risk assessment, which operators are required to sign to say they understand it.

Victoria Plum also said it was unaware of the practice of lifting people on a pallet on a forklift truck, but investigating EHO, Stephen Mills, told SHP there were indications that the warehouse manager did know of the practice and effectively sanctioned it.

Mr Mills explained that, prior to this incident, the company had no documented procedures for accessing goods at height, nor risk assessments for workplace transport issues, including forklift-truck usage. Although it did have a safety policy, which it produced in March 2008, it failed to implement it. He added: “The better — and safer — way of stocktaking would have been to lower the goods down from the racking, count them, and then put them back up again.”

Hull City Council’s health and safety manager, Trevor Todd, commented: “Our policy on enforcement means that we will seek to work with businesses to encourage compliance. It is also our responsibility to protect workers when serious accidents happen where basic safety precautions have not been taken, and that is why this case was brought to court.”

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