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October 13, 2011

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“Simple and inexpensive” measures would have prevented lift-truck incident

A Lincolnshire farming company has been fined after an agricultural worker was hit by a forklift truck at a farm where pedestrians and vehicles were inadequately segregated.

A Lithuanian agency worker fractured his left leg in the incident at CW Dobbs and Son’s premises near Spalding, Lincolnshire, on 21 October 2010.

Sitting 12 October, local magistrates heard that Algis Jevsejevas, 45, had been walking across the floor of a potato-grading shed to retrieve some box labels that were kept in a desk at the side of the shed. Neil Ward, the HSE inspector who investigated and prosecuted the case in court, told SHP that in walking between the potato grader and the desk, he crossed the path of the truck as it was reversing.

The inspector said: “In a fairly confined space like a grading shed, where there are piles of potato boxes, a grading machine and trucks moving backwards and forwards all the time, people and moving vehicles are just too close together. I am sure it will have been a change of direction of the truck that will have caught the worker out.”

He said to SHP that if the precaution of segregating vehicles and pedestrians is not taken, it is a “matter of time” before an incident like this will happen. “If everybody were paying attention, this should not happen, but people work long days, they do the same repetitive things over and over, and at some point their brain does not function as well as it should,” he remarked.

CW Dobbs said it was very sorry about the incident, which had been an act of omission rather than commission. It also sought to put some of the blame for their part in the incident on both the truck driver and the injured person, suggesting that had they fulfilled their responsibilities, it would not have happened.

The inspector added that since the incident, the farmer has put up a barrier and has moved the labels to another part of the shed next to the grading line, so that people do not have to walk across the shed. “This goes to show how simple and inexpensive preventative measures can be,” he noted.
CW Dobbs and Son pleaded guilty to breaching reg.4(1) of the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 by not organising the separation of vehicles and pedestrians in the shed so they could circulate safely.

The company was fined £7000 and ordered to pay £2588 full costs.

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