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July 20, 2010

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Tyre firm in a spin after forklift accident

Tyre manufacturer Pirelli failed to act on the findings of a risk assessment that identified a failure to separate vehicles and pedestrians at its factory in Carlisle.

North Cumbria Magistrates’ Court heard that 62-year-old contractor, Alan Miller, was feeding an electric cable into a sub-floor gallery when the incident took place on 29 October 2008. Once he had finished, he walked through an area within the curing department at the Dalston Road site, and was struck from behind by a pallet being carried on a forklift truck. He suffered a broken leg and has been unable to return to work owing to his injuries.

HSE inspectors learned that several similar incidents had previously taken place in the same area of the factory. In March 2008, a contractor stepped off a walkway in front of a forklift, which forced the vehicle to make an emergency stop. The truck’s sudden halt caused one of the pallets it was carrying to fall and land on the contractor, who suffered a broken leg.

The investigation found that forklift drivers’ vision was frequently obscured because they had to lower their loads to avoid overhead obstructions. Pirelli had identified the problem during a previous risk assessment but had failed to take steps to make the area a pedestrian-free zone.

HSE inspector Michael Griffiths issued an Improvement Notice on 4 December 2008, which required the firm to ensure that vehicles and pedestrians were separated.

Inspector Griffiths said: “The storage area should have been clearly marked as ‘pedestrian free’, and the injured worker should have been told of the risks prior to the incident in October 2008.

“Site operators should provide contractors with appropriate health and safety information, so that they can do their work safely. In practice, this means sharing information about the workplace, the routes to be used, and types of vehicles and equipment on site. Specific hazards and other people on site, including other contractors or visiting drivers, should also be considered.”

Pirelli appeared in court on 16 July and pleaded guilty to breaching s3(1) of the HSWA 1974. It was fined £9000 and ordered to pay £4282 towards the costs of the prosecution.

In mitigation, the company told the court that it had subsequently put up signs to warn employees that the area was a pedestrian-free zone. It also identified safe crossing points and put barriers in particularly dangerous areas. It has also installed CCTV to ensure that drivers follow the marked-out routes. 

The company also said it had no previous safety convictions.

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