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October 10, 2011

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Forklift service firm didn’t consider danger of working on truck roof

A service engineer narrowly escaped fatal injury when he fell off a forklift truck while trying to climb on to the truck’s roof to service its lifting equipment.

The 29-year-old man, from Tyldesley, Greater Manchester, who did not wish to be named, lost consciousness for several minutes after his head hit the ground in the incident at Moss Industrial Estate in Leigh, Lancashire, on 3 August 2010.

Trafford magistrates, sitting on 30 September, heard that the employee of Serviceplan Contracts, a company that services and repairs forklift trucks at customers’ premises, suffered severe headaches and a painful swelling to his head as a result of the fall, and was unable to work for some time afterwards.

An investigation by the HSE found that it was common practice for Serviceplan’s employees to service the lifting mast and chains on forklift trucks by climbing on top of them. Emily Osborne, the HSE inspector who investigated and prosecuted the case in court, told SHP the workers should have been given a stepladder or mobile steps in order to reach the equipment safely. She said some of the work could also have been carried out at ground level.

Serviceplan Contracts admitted breaching reg.4(1) of the Work at Height Regulations 2005 by failing to ensure the work was properly planned, supervised and carried out in a safe manner. The company received a £1000 fine and was ordered to pay £1000 in a contribution to costs.

Inspector Osborne said the fall could have been a lot worse, possibly even fatal. She added: “The engineer had been trained to carry out the work by standing on the roof of the forklift truck, despite there being a serious risk of injury from a fall. But Serviceplan simply hadn’t considered the potential dangers of working at height in this way.

“Workers face being seriously injured if they fall just a few feet. It is therefore vital that companies plan work at height, supervise it appropriately, and carry it out safely with the appropriate equipment.”

The company mitigated that it had misunderstood the Work at Height Regulations, which, it believed, did not apply to the servicing of forklift trucks. It realised in hindsight that it had not properly planned the work, and it had been an oversight on its part.

The inspector said that Serviceplan had complied with two Improvement Notices served on it after the incident, ordering it to carry out a suitable risk assessment for work at height when servicing trucks, and to implement a safe system of work. It had altered its system of work so that most servicing could be done by lowering the mast of the forklift to the ground, or by using a stepladder. It had also bought hard hats, suitable stepladders and harnesses to be used by its staff, if required.

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