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July 14, 2008

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Lorry-loading malfunction led to “terrible” crush incident

A warehouseman’s head was crushed between a lorry and a concrete wall at the Essex premises of international haulage firm, Schenker.

Basildon Crown Court heard that on 17 March 2006, the company had been using a faulty dock leveller to try to create a flat surface between the warehouse and the back of a lorry at a loading dock. Mark Treadwell had been standing on the back of the truck waiting for the leveller to come up. However, becauses the lip of the leveller was not working, he called to the truck driver to back the truck away from the loading dock so that the leveller could be lifted using a makeshift strap-and-hook method.

“Mr Treadwell thought the driver of the truck had not heard him call to him to drive the truck back, so he stuck his head out to shout to the driver,” Julie Rayner, the HSE inspector who investigated the case, explained to SHP. “As he did so, the driver reversed and crushed the warehouseman’s head between the truck and the wall.”

Mr Treadwell suffered severe crush injuries, including a fractured nose, brain-stem bleeding, blurred vision, speech and balance problems, and a perforated eardrum, and is unlikely to be able to return to his job.

In mitigation the company agreed that its risk assessment process had not been adequately robust. It did not appreciate the risks involved in the process, and said it believed its maintenance company had been in charge of the job.

The court fined Schenker a total of £45,000 on 30 June, after it pleaded guilty to breaching s2(1) and 3(1) of the HSWA 1974 by failing to protect the safety of both employees and non-employees, and to a breach of reg.5(1) of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations1998, by not maintaining work equipment in good working order and repair. It was fined £15,000 on each charge and ordered to pay full costs of £19,300.

Inspector Rayner added: “This tragic incident makes it clear to employers that they need to take positive action to maintain equipment. Had the company involved properly maintained the loading dock and carried out adequate risk assessments, this terrible incident could have been avoided.”

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