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April 15, 2009

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Cleaner’s legs broken by forklift collision

A lighting company has been fined £35,000 for failing to manage site traffic, after a forklift truck struck one of its employees.

Michael O’Connor was working as a cleaner for Aurora Ltd when the accident took place at the firm’s warehouse in St Albans, on 18 February 2008. Mr O’Connor was walking across the premises to collect fresh supplies from a storage cupboard when the forklift struck him. As a result of the accident, he suffered two broken legs and severe tissue damage, which was so severe that he required skin grafts. He has not been able to return to work and is still in considerable pain.

Investigators from Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council discovered that the driver of the forklift was unable to see Mr O’Connor because the load he was carrying had obscured his vision. The council also found that there were no measures in place at the warehouse to separate pedestrians and moving vehicles.

Head of environmental health at the council, Nick Long, told SHP: “Management of workplace transport risks is a priority topic, and had even an elementary risk assessment been carried out it would have highlighted the control measures that could have prevented this kind of accident from happening.”

Appearing at St Albans Magistrates’ Court on 8 April 2009, Aurora pleaded guilty to a breach of s2 (1) of the HSWA 1974. It was fined £35,000 and ordered to pay £15,750 in costs.

In mitigation, the firm said that it had carried out a risk assessment for site traffic but admitted that this lacked sufficient detail. It accepted responsibility for the accident and has subsequently introduced a banksman to direct drivers, so a similar incident can be avoided.

Councillor Mandy Perkins, executive member for planning and environmental health, commented: “The dangers of forklift trucks are well known and employers have a legal duty to ensure their staff work in safety. All employees in the borough are entitled to work in a safe environment. In taking this case to court, the council has shown that it will take firm action with any employer that deliberately puts its employees at risk.”

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