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December 12, 2008

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Worker crushed by giant oven

A worker was seriously injured after an industrial oven weighing over three-quarters of a ton fell on him.

Newcastle-under-Lyme Magistrates Court heard that a 22-year-old man was working at an industrial oven manufacturer’s factory in Rowhurst when the accident occurred on 18 January 2008. He and three colleagues were moving a partially-built oven using two pallet trucks underneath the narrow side of the oven.

Once the oven had been transported across the workshop it was lowered on to steel blocks for support. The workmen noticed that the leading pallet truck was trapped underneath a second oven, but were unable to dislodge it. The trailing pallet truck was moved to the front of the first oven so that the other pallet truck could be removed.

One of the workmen stood behind the first oven to steady it, while his colleagues tried to dislodge the leading pallet truck. While the second pallet truck was being placed underneath the oven, its forks struck a part of the unit, and caused it to become unstable and topple backwards. The oven fell towards the employee who was steadying it and struck a much larger oven, before sliding down and landing on top of the workman.

The man’s left foot was broken in three places and all of his toes were dislocated. He was rushed to hospital and has since made a full recovery.

Caltherm (UK) Ltd, who employed the man, pleaded guilty on 9 December to breaching s2(1) of the HSWA 1974. Magistrates fined the firm £10,000 and ordered it to pay costs of £3377.

In mitigation Caltherm told the court that it deeply regretted the incident and introduced a safe system of work following the accident. It also said that it had no previous accident history and the HSE had never taken action against it before.

HSE inspector Wayne Owen told SHP: “The lack of a risk assessment, suitable instruction, information, training or planning, together with the use of unsuitable equipment, all contributed to an unsafe system of work, which led to the accident.

“The HSE produces a wide range of free and priced guidance to assist companies who carry out lifting and moving operations. If followed, these publications contain guidance, which would have prevented the accident.”

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