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September 27, 2010

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Clothing warehouse ignored council’s warnings about site traffic

A forklift truck driver was killed when two vehicles collided at a clothing warehouse in Lancashire.

Manchester Crown Court heard that the incident took place at Regatta Ltd’s warehouse in Mercury Way, Urmston on 3 February 2006. Padraig Ward was manoeuvring a high-level man-rise forklift truck in a narrow aisle to collect stock. The cab of the truck was at its maximum height, enabling him to reach high shelving, when another forklift truck reversed down the aisle and collided with the vehicle. Mr Ward’s truck overturned and the cab fell 30 metres to the ground. He died in hospital as a result of his injuries.

Trafford Council’s environmental health officers visited the site and found the company did not have a safe system of work in place to prevent vehicles colliding when operating in narrow aisles. It also discovered a suitable risk assessment had not been undertaken, despite previous incidents of vehicle collisions at the premises. The firm had received previous warnings and formal legal notices from the council relating to the need to improve traffic management at the site.

On 6 February 2006, the council issued a Prohibition Notice, which ordered the firm to put a system in place to ensure only one vehicle is allowed to travel down an aisle at the same time. The company also received an Improvement Notice, which required it to carry out a risk assessment for vehicle movements at the warehouse.

Regatta appeared in court on 23 September and pleaded guilty to breaching s2(1) of the HSWA 1974 and reg.3 of the MHSW Regulations 1999. It was fined a total of £150,000 and £64,059 in costs.

In mitigation, the company said it had no previous convictions and had complied with the enforcement notices. It has carried out a risk assessment and has installed sensors on forklifts so they immobilise if they enter the same aisle as another vehicle.

Trafford Council head of public protection, Iain Veitch, said: “Trafford Council would again like to express their sympathy to the family of Padraig Ward following his tragic death on 3 February 2006. €ᄄ€ᄄ

“Mr Ward’s death could have been prevented if Regatta Limited had put in place safe systems of work, and carried out a suitable and sufficient risk assessment, with regard to workplace transport. There was evidence that the company was aware of their duty to manage the safe operation of vehicles, but they failed to take appropriate action in this case.”

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