Company fined after forklift horror

AN HGV driver was left blind after being crushed against his lorry by a forklift truck driven by an untrained operator, a court heard.Anthony Sadler also needed to have his spleen removed in the near fatal accident at a stationer's depot in Colchester last summer, a judge at Chelmsford Court heard yesterday.

AN HGV driver was left blind after being crushed against his lorry by a forklift truck driven by an untrained operator, a court heard.

Anthony Sadler also needed to have his spleen removed in the near fatal accident at a stationer's depot in Colchester last summer, a judge at Chelmsford Court heard yesterday.

In a case brought by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), Ian Smith (Stationers) Ltd was fined £20,000 for failures to meet its strict code of practice aimed at minimising the risk of injuries.

The firm had admitted failing to prevent such risks at an earlier hearing.


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A lorry driver of 37 years' experience, Mr Sadler, who was not employed by the family-run company, was making his regular delivery to the depot in Commerce Way on June 6 last year, the court was told.

Matthew Taylor, prosecuting, told the judge he parked his lorry outside the depot and asked for help unloading a single palette of envelopes.

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Company employee Mark Freeman, who had joined the firm just three weeks earlier, went to ask his branch manager what he should do.

But as his manager was busy, director Duncan Jones instructed Mr Freeman to use a reach-type forklift truck believing he was qualified to do so, the court heard.

In fact, Mr Freeman had only received one day's formal training on a different type of truck – and that was nine years ago, the judge heard.

Minutes later, Mr Freeman, who no longer works for the company, "panicked" as his foot slipped from the pedal and struck Mr Sadler at least twice, crushing him against his lorry.

Mr Sadler, from Northampton, was taken to Colchester General Hospital, where he was also treated for lacerations to his kidney and liver. He now has to be cared for by his wife and was not in court for the sentencing.

Hugh Hamill, mitigating, said the Midlands-based company had admitted its failure to comply with the HSE code of practice and that Mr Jones was acting outside his remit.

Since the "isolated incident", it had employed a consultant to tighten up its "ambiguous" health and safety procedures, he told the court.

These included keeping forklift truck keys locked away from unqualified drivers, he added.

Passing sentence, Judge Christopher Ball QC said: "I am satisfied Mr Freeman was only permitted to drive on that occasion because of the unfortunate intervention of Mr Jones.

"It appears that the company was aware of the need for training, but not of the high standards laid down by the HSE.

"The company was one without any blemish in health and safety matters until that incident. But there were terrible injuries to Mr Sadler as a result of the accident.

"With proper training this unfortunate accident would not have occurred."

The company was fined £20,000 and ordered to pay £3,334 costs.

After the hearing, Duncan Jones, said: "We are terribly sorry for what happened – we thought we were taking the correct procedures."

Paul Downer, investigating officer for the HSE, also said outside the court: "There are about 8,000 forklift injuries reported to us each year. They create terrible suffering for the families' involved – we cannot stress enough the importance of adhering to our safety procedures."

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