Monday 28 March 2011

Huge fine for vehicle manufacturer for forklift fatality

An automotive-parts manufacturer has been fined £400,000 after an employee was killed during what was supposed to be his last day with the company.

Darren Small, 35, was working as a distribution clerk at Calsonic Kansei UK Ltd’s factory in Llanelli, Wales, when the incident took place, on 17 March 2008, which was meant to be his last day at the company before he took voluntary redundancy. He had gone on to the factory floor to give an instruction to the driver of a reach truck. When the conversation ended the truck driver reversed and accidently struck Mr Small, knocking him to the ground. He suffered serious head injuries and died in hospital three days later.

HSE inspector Stephen Jones told SHP the incident could have been avoided if the firm had procedures in place to separate pedestrians from traffic inside the factory. He explained that Mr Small would not have needed to approach the driver if vehicles had been fitted with two-way radios, or if a safe zone had been created where the driver could have met him to receive instructions. He said: “It's fairly routine for forklift trucks to operate within the same area as pedestrians in this industry. However, working procedures and systems need to be in place to prevent vehicles colliding with people. ”This tragic incident could have been avoided had all contractors and employees been aware of the risks, and had the safety procedures been taken to avoid such risks.”

Inspector Jones also revealed that the company had reported a similar incident in 2006, when a forklift truck ran over a worker’s ankle. Following that incident, the HSE wrote to Calsonic Kansei UK, urging it to review its safe system of work for moving vehicles at the site.

Swansea Crown Court heard that the truck drivers at the factory were employed by David European Transport, trading as FT Logistics, which is based in Calcea, Italy. The company went into liquidation shortly after the incident and the HSE didn’t think it was worthwhile pursuing charges against it.

Calsonic Kansei UK Ltd appeared at Swansea Crown Court on 18 March and pleaded guilty to breaching s2(1) of the HSWA 1974 and was fined £334,000. It also pleaded guilty to breaching s3(1) of the same Act, for putting FT Logisitcs staff at risk, and was fined £66,000. The company was also ordered to pay £44,790 in costs.

In mitigation, Calsonic said it has implemented a number of changes following Mr Small’s death, which include creating a new policy to prohibit workers from being within one metre of a moving vehicle. It has also invested a lot of money in replacing many of the reach trucks with tow tugs, which are automated guidance vehicles with sensors that isolate the tug if people approach while it is moving.

Source: SHP

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