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July 26, 2005

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Human error plea rejected

Pall-Ex (UK), a Leicester-based haulage company that handles palletised goods, has been fined a total of £100,000 after a driver was killed when his forklift truck fell on him.


Sitting on 30 June, Nottingham Crown Court heard that on 10 January 2003, Moray Inglis had been driving a forklift truck at the firm’s central depot in Gotham, Notts, where deliveries were brought in, unloaded and reloaded for their onward destinations. While this was taking place, a lorry driver pulled forward, not realising a pallet was still being unloaded at the time. It pulled the forks of the forklift truck, causing it to overturn on top of Mr Inglis, trapping and fatally injuring him.

“It was that system of work, introduced six months before the incident, that directly caused the risk,” HSE inspector Frances Bailey, who investigated the case, told SHP.

Pall-Ex said in mitigation that all its forklift drivers were trained and competent; it had co-operated with the HSE on its previous visits, but had not realised the consequences of the new system; it had left it up to the drivers to supervise the unloading; and there had been no deliberate or wilful ignoring of advice.

Judge Bennett rejected the company’s suggestion that it had been human error on the driver’s part, saying: “This incident occurred because the company operated an unsafe system of work. The unintended effect of making drivers work faster than it was safe to do so endangered the lives of drivers and employees. It was a tragic and wholly unnecessary death.”

Pall-Ex had earlier pleaded guilty before Nottingham magistrates to breaching sections 2(1) and 3(1) of HSWA 1974 in not ensuring the safety of employees and non-employees (sub-contracted drivers were also used). It was fined £80,000 on the first charge, £20,000 on the second and ordered to pay full HSE costs of £8638.

Inspector Bailey commented to SHP: “No fine will compensate for the tragic loss of a life, but the high penalty reflects the seriousness of the offence. Vehicles and pedestrians do not mix. Workplace transport is a priority at all HSE visits, where relevant. We will look at it in every factory.”


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