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December 4, 2008

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Council fined GBP 75,000 over crush death

A worker was crushed to death between a forklift truck and a heavy goods vehicle at a council depot.

Plymouth City Council pleaded guilty to breaching s2(1) of HSWA for not ensuring the safety of its employees at the city’s Crown Court on 21 November. It was fined £75,000, and full costs of £16,733 were awarded against it. The judge said the fine would have been higher except that it would have to have been paid by the taxpayer.

The court heard that on 19 February 2007, at a council waste-vehicle storage and maintenance depot in Plymouth, Rory Littley and a colleague were attempting to unload 610 wheelie bins from the back of a container lorry.

Simon Jones, the HSE inspector who investigated the incident, told SHP the custom and practice for unloading the bins had been to lift a worker up on the forks of a forklift truck to the rear of the lorry to gain access to the strapping that was holding the bins in place.

After the doors of the container lorry were opened, Mr Littley’s colleague, who was not an authorised forklift driver, lifted him up on the forks of the truck. On accelerating the vehicle to try to make the forks rise more quickly, the forklift moved forward instead of upward, crushing Mr Littley between the truck and the container lorry.

The Council said in mitigation it accepted responsibility for the incident and expressed deep remorse. Although there had been other risk assessments in place, it had not conducted one for this particular process. It had made improvements to its working practices since the incident.

The judge said there had been a failure to undertake a suitable risk assessment, failure to supervise the procedure, and failure to train employees properly.

Inspector Jones observed: “This case clearly highlights the need for all employers to assess the risks of workplace transport. In this case, there were blatant breaches of health and safety legislation. There was a clear need for a risk assessment for unloading container lorries arriving at the depot.”

The inspector concluded: “If there had been a suitable and sufficient risk assessment, I am sure that this tragic accident would not have occurred and Mr Littler would still be alive today.”


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