Computer cabinet falls onto man causing serious injuries… A forklift truck driver suffered a broken neck while attempting to load a computer cabinet onto a trailer at a logistics firm in Lichfield.
The man had been operating the forklift truck when he noticed that the computer cabinet was rocking a little on the forks of the truck and was in danger of becoming dislodged.
He proceeded to get out of the truck and then tried to manually steady the cabinet but it fell from the forks hitting him on the head and knocking him to the floor. He sustained serious injuries including cuts and bruises, a broken wrist and a broken neck during the accident on 22 August 2008. However the scale of his injuries were initially not recognised by his work colleagues as it appeared that the victim was only bleeding from a head wound. The depot manager accompanied the man around the plant as they searched for an expert in first aid instead of leaving him in position until his injuries could be determined and the correct treatment could be provided.
A trained first aid expert was eventually located but he also failed to recognise the extent of the forklift truck operator’s injuries and he was merely driven to a nearby hospital that didn’t have the necessary resources to deal with the specific injuries sustained by the victim. As a result as soon as his injuries were diagnosed he had to be urgently airlifted to Heartlands Hospital in Birmingham. He spent a total of six days in hospital while his injuries were treated and 14 weeks in halo traction as he recovered from his fractured neck and is partially disabled to this day.
The HSE investigation into the accident discovered that the man’s employer had failed to undertake an adequate risk assessment for the process of loading and unloading goods and had also not done enough to provide necessary supervision and instruction to forklift drivers ensuring driver safety. The HSE was also critical of the company’s procedures for dealing with injuries in the workplace.
The company, Palletways (UK) Ltd, pleaded guilty to breaches of Section 2 of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 which states that the employer has a duty to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of all his employees. The company was fined £60,000 and ordered to pay costs of £41,339.
HSE inspector Lyn Spooner commenting on the case, said:
“This was a preventable incident that could easily have resulted in death or paralysis.
“Each year, about 8,000 incidents involving lift trucks, often caused by poor operator training, are reported to HSE.
“Any company that carries out lifting operations must assess the risks thoroughly, especially the need for proper training and supervision. There is no excuse for failing to do this, especially as free guidance is available from HSE.
“There was also a string of management failings in dealing with Mr Hill when he reported the incident. It was clear that he had suffered a head injury and Palletways (UK) should have treated this as a very serious incident and called an ambulance immediately.”