Employer fined £20,000 after accident

A HORRIFIC accident which left a Suffolk yardman unable to work again when he was crushed between a forklift truck and a lorry has cost his employer almost £20,000.

A HORRIFIC accident which left a Suffolk yardman unable to work again when he was crushed between a forklift truck and a lorry has cost his employer almost £20,000.

Builders' merchant Clarkes of Walsham Ltd yesterdayadmitted breaching safety rules and was fined £10,000 and ordered to pay Gerald Frost £5,000 in compensation after the accident in April this year.

St Edmundsbury Magistrates also ordered the firm to pay £4,874.65 costs.

The court was told Mr Frost, 63, would probably never work again as a result of his injuries, which included a fractured neck, broken ribs and a collapsed lung.

Clarkes, which employs more than 100 people and has an annual turnover of more than £9m, admitted breaching the Health and Safety at Work Act by having no policy in place to address the dangers of reversing vehicles.

Mr Frost, of Wattisfield Road, Walsham le Willows, had been working at the company as a yardman for 46 years when the accident happened on April 9.

Most Read

Paul Carter, prosecuting on behalf of the Health and Safety Executive, told the court how Mr Frost had parked his forklift truck outside a maintenance workshop to carry out some work on his vehicle.

A seven-and-a-half-tonne flat bed lorry reversed into the back of Mr Frost and crushed him against the mast of his forklift, he said.

Another worker saw the accident and told the lorry driver to move forward and Mr Frost collapsed to the ground. He was taken to the West Suffolk Hospital in Bury St Edmunds, and then to the Norwich and Norfolk Hospital where he spent eight days and received 10 units of blood. He was then returned to the West Suffolk Hospital for nine days. The worker later had to return to hospital again when he suffered complications with his collapsed lung, the court was told.

Mr Carter said the company had failed to address the risks and hazards and involved with reversing vehicles.

"The company has a general duty to do all that is reasonably practical to ensure the safety of its employees. It failed to scrutinise thoroughly the risks of reversing vehicles," he added.

The court heard how the company has taken major steps to improve safety since the accident. No reversing is now allowed unless there is someone available to guide the drivers and all workers have to wear high visibility jackets. The company has also introduced measures recommended by safety inspectors and employed independent health and safety consultants.

Justin Rainfordmitigating, said: "It is easy in retrospect to identify problems and to look at measures to rectify the problems and the company has taken those steps.

"This is not a company that simply ignored health and safety procedures and even before the accident it had a lengthy safety policy in place. It had inspections in 1998,1999 and 2000 and it addressed any concerns that were highlighted. The risks of reversing vehicles were not identified."

He said the company was very concerned about Mr Frost's injuries and that he was a valued member of staff. The firm had continued to pay him full wages plus bonuses and is likely to do so until he reaches retirement age. The company also provided Mr Frost's son with a vehicle and fuel so that he could visit his father in hospital.

After yesterday's hearing the company's managing director Harvey Clarke said: "I think the sentence was fair and the hearing was handled in a fair and considerate way. The company has taken on board all the information the Health and Safety Executive made available to us.

"This was a very unfortunate accident and we have put measures in place to rectify the problems. This was the first time anything like this has happened to us in nearly 100 years and we don't envisage anything like that happening again in the next 100 years."

Mr Frost last night said he did not want to comment about the case but stressed: "I am very happy with the way I have been treated by the firm."

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter