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February 18, 2009

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Untrained forklift driver reversed into supervisor

A factory supervisor suffered a broken leg after he was hit by a forklift truck, which was being driven by an untrained driver.

Both men were working for Line Mark (UK) Ltd when the accident took place at the firm’s factory in Rossendale, Lancashire on 2 July last year. Magistrates were told that the forklift driver, Blaine Higgins, had been allowed to drive the vehicle despite the company being aware that he did not have a valid licence or proper training.

On the day of the incident Higgins had been moving pallets using a 4.5-tonne forklift but his supervisor, Ryan Butterworth, had noticed that he was driving the vehicle too fast and with the forks at full height. He reported the incident to the factory foreman and, as a result, Higgins was removed from this job and asked to use the forklift to break up intermediate bulk containers (IBCs).

While Higgins was carrying out this new task, Mr Butterworth was standing behind the forklift, wrapping a number of IBCs in plastic sheeting. Higgins then proceeded to reverse the vehicle, but failed to look behind before carrying out the manoeuvre, and accelerated into Mr Butterworth, who received multiple fractures to his left leg. The injuries were so severe that he required surgery to insert pins and plates into his leg and was absent from work for over 10 weeks.

The company pleaded guilty to breaching s2(1) of the HSWA 1974 at Rossendale Magistrates’ Court on 16 February and was fined £6665 and ordered to pay £2053 costs.

In mitigation, Line Mark entered an early guilty plea and presented a letter to the court from Mr Butterworth, which stated how well the company has treated him since the accident. The firm also said that it has now sought advice from health and safety specialists to ensure that a similar accident does not take place.

HSE inspector, Chris Smith, told SHP: “While this was a serious injury, it could have been far worse. Forklift trucks are a potential danger to their operators and to other people in the vicinity if not operated with great care. It is vital that companies check that employees are fully trained and have relevant qualifications to use these vehicles. Line Mark failed to do this and, as a result, there were serious consequences.”

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