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Safety and Health Practitioner (SHP) is first for independent health and safety news.
July 3, 2005

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Young worker paralysed in pallet spill

The importance of assessing manual handling tasks was underlined by a recent case in which a young man was left paralysed by an unstable pallet load that collapsed on to him.


Cornwall and South Wales meat products firm St Merryn Meat pleaded guilty to a charge under s2(1) of HSWA 1974 of failing to ensure the safety of its employees. It was fined £10,000 and ordered to pay the HSE’s full costs of £1967.

Sitting on 23 May, Liskeard magistrates heard that on 10 March 2004, at the company’s factory near Roche in Cornwall, 19-year-old Daniel Williams was employed in the packaging store as both a storeman and an administrator. Rolls of packaging film had been delivered on pallets that are normally stacked two-high on a pallet truck but on this occasion they arrived stacked three-high.

Barry Trudgian, the HSE inspector who investigated and prosecuted the case, told SHP: “The top pallet had moved in transit and was unstable. While four people were attempting to stabilise the load, the contents of the top pallet, weighing approximately 300kg, fell over on to Mr Williams. The weight forced him into a sitting position and fractured his spine, leaving him permanently paralysed from the waist down.”

The company said in mitigation that it had a good safety record at the Cornwall site. It had since gone beyond what was required in assessing manual handling and bringing in control measures.

Inspector Trudgian commented to SHP: “Assessment of manual handling tasks had not taken place before the accident, although a general risk assessment had been carried out for the area. St Merryn Meat should have been trying to avoid manual handling as far as possible.”

He added: “Companies should look at manual handling, which is a major cause of back injury. Don’t bury your head in the sand and think it’s not a problem, because it costs a lot of money when employees are off work with bad backs. The initial assessment is quite simple and can often show that you can avoid manual handling.”


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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