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May 27, 2010

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Worker crushed to death trying to stop two-tonne load from falling

A logistics company whose workers were more used to moving and handling light bales of fabric has been fined £250,000 after an employee was killed while helping to manoeuvre a two-tonne load of glass.

Roadways Container Logistics Ltd, of Stourton, pleaded guilty at Leeds Crown Court on 21 May to breaching section 2(1) of the HSWA 1974 for failing to ensure the health and safety of Alan Fletcher. The 59-year-old, from Leeds, was involved in an operation to unload cases of heavy glass from an open-top freight container at the company’s depot in Stourton on 6 April 2006.

The glass was destined for a prestigious new building in Leeds, and Roadways had initially bid for the contract to unload 122 crates that had been shipped from the Gulf. It was unsuccessful in that bid but was given the job of unloading two crates of mixed glass at its Stourton site for later transport to the new-build site.

Mr Fletcher, along with two cargo handlers and a supervisor, was present during the unloading of the crates. As the last one was being lifted from the container it began to fall and Mr Fletcher ran to stop it. But the crate weighed almost two tonnes and he was crushed to death.

HSE inspector Morag Irwin, who investigated and prosecuted the case, explained to SHP what happened: “This job was new and unfamiliar work for the site operatives. There was no competent person to do a risk assessment, the operatives had no experience in lifting such loads – consequently, no method statement for the task had been prepared. The people involved in the job were more used to driving forklift trucks and unloading 25kg bundles of clothing. They had no appropriate training, no slinging experience, and there was no banksman.”

The most significant failing, however – something that by itself would have prevented the incident and Mr Fletcher’s death – was the lack of an exclusion zone around the lifting area. “Had there been such a zone,” said inspector Irwin, “even an Olympic runner could not have got to the load before it fell.”

She explained that the large case should have been secured up to the point when the crane slings took the strain. But because the right equipment was not used, the “inherently unstable” load fell, hitting Mr Fletcher and seriously injuring the foot of the job supervisor.

In addition to the fine, Roadways Container Logistics was ordered to pay £100,000 in costs. In mitigation, the company had – at the inquest stage – said it carried out a dynamic risk assessment but, as inspector Irwin pointed out, the HSE only recognises these in respect of the Armed Forces and Emergency Services. The company also suggested the victim was to blame. SHP did contact Roadways for further comment but has so far received no response.

Concluded inspector Irwin: “This hearing highlights the importance of having an effective system in place for managing health and safety generally, and specifically when lifting heavy goods, and I hope it serves as a warning to other companies.

“The HSE has produced a lot of guidance on this matter, which can be downloaded from our website, and I would urge other companies not to take any chances when it comes to carrying out lifting operations.”

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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JC Express
JC Express
5 years ago

” said it carried out a dynamic risk assessment but, as inspector Irwin pointed out, the HSE only recognises these in respect of the Armed Forces and Emergency Services”
I believe this to be incorrect as although generic risk assessments may be in place, if the task involves a similar system of work, but has slight differences, then a dynamic RA should be carried out. This is common practice with most if not all companies (inc Fire service, Police etc…..)