Company fined after death of worker using fork lift truck

A Derbyshire-based company has been fined after the death of a 19-year-old worker, when a fork lift truck (FLT) overturned at the company’s site in Chinley, Derbyshire.

Manchester Crown Court (Minshull Street) heard how, on 10 February 2015, Ben Pallier-Singleton was driving a FLT during night time hours down a sloping roadway, when it overturned and the employee suffered fatal crush injuries.

This investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) had initial involvement from Derbyshire Constabulary and found the employee was not adequately trained nor was he wearing a seatbelt at the time of the FLT overturning. It was also found the company did not inform their employees of the speed limit on-site, had not put measures in place to control the speed of vehicles, and failed to have adequate lighting and edge protection in place to avoid FLTs overturning.

Vinyl Compound Ltd of Stephanie Works, High Park, Derbyshire pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2 (1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and Regulation 3 of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999. The company has been fined £450,000 and ordered to pay costs of £71,778.20.

Ben’s mother, Kathryn Pallier, said after the sentencing hearing:

“Ben was and always will be my beloved son, and much-loved brother to Dan and Sophie. Ben was a young man at the start of his life, full of life, fun and the excitement of plans and ideas for the future with his girlfriend, Kensey. He was the shining light of our family and brought everyone together. “I am heartbroken and angry that Ben could go to work and be killed because his employer, Vinyl Compounds, took so little care of him, failed to train him or make sure the workplace was safe. It is utterly shocking that this can happen even now. The directors who made the decisions will be now able to get on with their lives but we are serving a life sentence. Any fine they have paid is nothing, no penalty at all compared to the penalty we face: life-long torment, endless sadness and grief without Ben.”

Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector Berian Price said:

“This tragic incident could have easily been prevented. The company’s management of fork lift truck driving operations and its failure to provide various measures to ensure the safety of the external yard area coupled with the lack of safe driver measures, such as wearing a seat belt, exposed employees to serious safety risks. “Sadly, in this case, these failures resulted in the needless loss of Mr Pallier-Singleton’s life.”

Phoenix comments:

This is such a tragic case of a young, talented man losing his life due to the negligence of the employer. Younger workers can be keen to impress to maintain their job security and may not question the risks associated with tasks. Combined with the high-risk activity of operating fork lift trucks, there is a foreseeable risk and as such the responsibility of the employer to assess this risk. Vehicles at work continue to be a major cause of fatal and major injuries. Every year there are over 5000 incidents involving transport in the workplace. About 50 of these result in people being killed. Employers have a responsibility to manage the risks from workplace transport effectively and should consider three key areas:

  • Safe site - Such as traffic routes, separating pedestrian/vehicles, speed, driving surfaces, lighting, parking, loading areas, protecting structures and buildings and general site maintenance.
  • Safe vehicle - Such as safe manoeuvring, right vehicles for the right job, securing loads, preventing falls from vehicles, seatbelts and inspection, maintenance and repairs.
  • Safe driver - Such as medical fitness and operator training which should always include three stages:
  • Basic training: the basic skills and knowledge required to operate a lift truck safely and efficiently.
  • Specific job training: knowledge and understanding of the operating principles and controls of the lift truck to be used and how it will be used in their workplace.
  • Familiarisation training: applying what has been learnt, under normal working conditions, on the job.

HSE has published an Approved Code of Practice (ACOP) and guidance called ‘Rider-operated lift trucks: Operator training and safe use. Approved Code of Practice and guidance’. Which is freely available to download from: http://www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/priced/l117.pdf