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February 3, 2011

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Worker fell 12ft during safety demonstration

A safety trainer has been prosecuted by local authorities for failing to implement safe work-at-height practices during a demonstration.

Steven Roadknight, who traded as Safety Train UK Ltd, was contracted to deliver rope-escape training at Kuehne+Nagel’s transportation depot. He was training staff how to escape from a Very Narrow Aisle (VNA) lift truck, which are used to stock shelves in narrow aisles. If the machine breaks down the only way to escape is to climb over the cab and descend to the floor.

As part of the training he asked one of the workers to practise an emergency escape from the vehicle. She was instructed to climb on to the cab and then attach herself to a rope, which had a descender lever, and lower herself down to the ground. But Roadknight did not attach a safety rope to her that he could control in case anything went wrong. When she began lowering herself to the ground she pulled too hard on the descender lever and plummeted 12 feet to the ground. She sprained both of her ankles, and sustained bruising to her back, and serious rope burns.

Birmingham City Council environmental health officer James Rudman, who investigated the incident, told SHP that Roadknight had also failed to provide a safety helmet for the demonstration.

EHO Rudman said: “The injured employee was extremely lucky to not have been more seriously injured. Failing to use a safety rope and helmets could quite easily have resulted in this being a fatal incident. I was pleased that the court agreed and supported our actions.”

Roadknight appeared at Birmingham Magistrates’ Court on 28 January and pleaded guilty to breaching s37 of the HSWA 1974. He was fined £500 and ordered to pay £1500 towards costs.

In mitigation, Roadknight said he had no previous convictions and had entered an early guilty plea. He asked the court to take into account his limited financial means as the company is no longer trading.

Following the hearing, Councillor Neil Eustace commented: “I am pleased that the magistrates recognised the seriousness of the offence. My officers will continue to take action where businesses and individuals fail to comply with minimum health and safety standards.”

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11 years ago

Rope escape has been carried out for many years by my instructors without problems. all instructors utilise two ropes one to mimic the truck’s system and the other to act as a safety line and a confidence booster for the operator. if the training is carried out correctly with protection on the lubricated tracks then no harm will come to the operator or his clothing

Regards Chris Hawkins Driver training manager Jungheinrich UK Ltd.

11 years ago

I am aware of other incidents which have occurred under similar circumstances where someone has unintentionally gripped the descender leave too hard. Perhaps it is also time someone looked at whether this continues to be an appropriate lever. I appreciate that it is designed to stop if the lever is released (eg if someone lets go whilst falling) but equally, it is a natural reaction to grip a level when panicing.

11 years ago

Is this guy an IOSH Member; I hope not!