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March 21, 2011

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Huge fine for vehicle manufacturer for forklift fatality

An automotive-parts manufacturer has been fined £400,000 after an employee was killed during what was supposed to be his last day with the company.

Darren Small, 35, was working as a distribution clerk at Calsonic Kansei UK Ltd’s factory in Llanelli, Wales, when the incident took place, on 17 March 2008, which was meant to be his last day at the company before he took voluntary redundancy. He had gone on to the factory floor to give an instruction to the driver of a reach truck. When the conversation ended the truck driver reversed and accidently struck Mr Small, knocking him to the ground. He suffered serious head injuries and died in hospital three days later.

HSE inspector Stephen Jones told SHP the incident could have been avoided if the firm had procedures in place to separate pedestrians from traffic inside the factory. He explained that Mr Small would not have needed to approach the driver if vehicles had been fitted with two-way radios, or if a safe zone had been created where the driver could have met him to receive instructions.

He said: “It’s fairly routine for forklift trucks to operate within the same area as pedestrians in this industry. However, working procedures and systems need to be in place to prevent vehicles colliding with people.

”This tragic incident could have been avoided had all contractors and employees been aware of the risks, and had the safety procedures been taken to avoid such risks.”

Inspector Jones also revealed that the company had reported a similar incident in 2006, when a forklift truck ran over a worker’s ankle. Following that incident, the HSE wrote to Calsonic Kansei UK, urging it to review its safe system of work for moving vehicles at the site. 

Swansea Crown Court heard that the truck drivers at the factory were employed by David European Transport, trading as FT Logistics, which is based in Calcea, Italy. The company went into liquidation shortly after the incident and the HSE didn’t think it was worthwhile pursuing charges against it.

Calsonic Kansei UK Ltd appeared at Swansea Crown Court on 18 March and pleaded guilty to breaching s2(1) of the HSWA 1974 and was fined £334,000. It also pleaded guilty to breaching s3(1) of the same Act, for putting FT Logisitcs staff at risk, and was fined £66,000. The company was also ordered to pay £44,790 in costs.

In mitigation, Calsonic said it has implemented a number of changes following Mr Small’s death, which include creating a new policy to prohibit workers from being within one metre of a moving vehicle. It has also invested a lot of money in replacing many of the reach trucks with tow tugs, which are automated guidance vehicles with sensors that isolate the tug if people approach while it is moving.

To see an interview with Mr Small’s family following the prosecution click on the video below.

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Almack74
Almack74
11 years ago

Hi John Doe, I am with you on the pay and respect issues but I didnt see anything in the HSE guys statement to suggest total segregation. He suggests working procedures and systems need to be in place (and more importantly understood and monitored I say) and was perhaps foolish to offer suggestions (something I have asked from them myself in the past)that end up being interpreted as must do’s! Damned if you do or if you don’t in this case it appears.

Bob
Bob
11 years ago

We were issued a PN for no seggretgation of the Public and Traffic on a carraigeway where there is no existing footpath. Ditches either side. Previously the public presumably walked on a 50mph road with no such protection.
Houses were notified of preceeding works. Nearest dwelling 1 m away, road speed reduced to 30mph, temp traffic lights adopted, enclosed work site – ensuring a safe zone . Yet the HSA told us to erect public protection over the entire 2m carraigeway.
LOST FOR WORDS?

Bobwallace5
Bobwallace5
11 years ago

With complete sympathy for the family, are the HSE really saying that FLT and pedestrians should never be in close proximity to each other! Whilst I accept the story may not reveal the true nature of the business and their safety culture, the inspectors comments do raise the question regarding reasonably practicable. 2 way radios, “safe zones” and complete segregation are laudible, but many warehouse and distribution centres routinely have FLT and pedestrian interface through necessity!

Doa
Doa
11 years ago

WOW! Have to say that recent dealings with HSE have left a very unpleasant taste (never mind the safety, here’s the bill!). This is just ridiculous. How can H&S managers go to their directors and demand total segregation of FLTs and pedestrians? Seriously looks like I am getting out of this profession – too much responsibilty, inadequate pay, little respect., and probably the crappest regulators on earth. cheers HSE!

Ed_Handley
Ed_Handley
11 years ago

A fatality can never be taken lightly, nor can the impact on the victims family, but there are times when the Authorities, who are supposed to be subject experts, talk a lot of nonsense. It is usually impossible to totally segregate lift trucks and pedestrians because businesses do not have the space, let alone the money, to build perfect premises, yet segregation is still being touted as the solution. Do they demand we segregate pedestrians from vehicles on our roads? I wonder why not?

Ewandale
Ewandale
11 years ago

When you have had (as in this case) a fairly serious injury, you have to act. this company clearly did not act quickly or thoroughly enough after the broken ankle. No one should lose their life whilst earning a living PERIOD I’m of the opinion that there should be no limit to what a company can do in terms of financial,managerial or physical resources to eradicate this kind of risk. If you can’t afford the above you shouldn’t be trading. Mr Doe, if you can’t stand the heat……

Maxcbancroft
Maxcbancroft
11 years ago

I think reasonable two way radios cost less than £100 so not really an excessive amount to pay – also it is difficult to comment adequately on the basis of the (necessarilly) brief report. Can’t argue with the fact that somebody died though – also the CPS/HSE did not prosecute the driver of the FLT so it doesn’t seem as if it was his fault?

Michael
Michael
11 years ago

Does anyone know where the alarm / sensors mentioned in the SHP report can be purchased? Complete segregation is not possible. The loss of life is always sad and regrettable when it happens at work. It creates paranoia and mistrust of systems. Why have Logistic / Truck companies not developed some early warning when there is always interface in a warehouse between pedestrians and trucks?

Morgan
Morgan
11 years ago

This is a classic case of health & safety gone mad and the HSE/courts not living in the real world. It is this kind of thing that gives the H&S profession a bad name. My sincere sympathies to the family but if I was driving a car a hit a stationary pedestrian, I would be at fault. So why was the forklift driver not prosecuted here instead of the company? I assume that he was trained to drive the machine! On the other hand is nobody allowed to make a mistake? HSE/ courts never make them!!?

Ray
Ray
11 years ago

This case, sad that it is, reminds me of another similar case where the HSE recommended a safe zone following a serious incident at a waste recycling centre. The safe zone recommended was a steel cage where employees could take refuge when a vehicle was passing or something to that effect. I had to ask myself how practical was this as a safety measure and is this now the standard which should be applied? If so, would HSE inspectors now insist on this measure in other workplaces – I doubt it.

Smith
Smith
11 years ago

Yes, rather a worrying outcome. Death is the worst outcome from any incident and will, naturally, result in the most serious review of what happened, with useful comment on all the possible controls. But, from the essence of the article, the primary cause was that the FLT driver did not look where he was going.