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1.2 Million fine for fatal forklift accident

Richard BrownA hair stylist only learned that her partner had been crushed to death at work when an agency left her a voicemail offering its condolences over his forklift accident. Kim Tribe, 47, of Hull, East Yorkshire, said she had been Christmas shopping when Richard Brown, 48, suffered fatal injuries while delivering kitchen work tops. Richard Brown, of Hull, East Yorkshire, pictured with partner Kim Tribe and his son Dominik Brown, was crushed to death at work during a forklift truck accident.

Howden Joinery has now been fined £1.2million for health and safety breaches after the accident at its premises in Workington, Cumbria, on November 10, 2014.

Speaking after the tragedy, Miss Tribe told how she learned of his death after returning home at 4.10pm to a voicemail left by his employment agency. She said: 'The agency wanted to know if they could be of any assistance after the tragic news about Richard. No one had told me about the accident. Miss Tribe told how she then phoned Mr Brown, who was described by his family as 'hardworking' and a 'good man', but it just rang out. She said the accident had 'destroyed' the family, and told how she had to break the news to her partner's son Dominik, then 17, a former Hull City footballer. Miss Tribe also revealed she had spoken to her partner about an hour before the tragedy, and he had told her: 'I'll unload this lot and I'll ring you back.'

fatal tipover accidentThe incident happened when a forklift truck 'overbalanced' as two pallets were being unloaded simultaneously from his HGV by an experienced operator. Exactly what happened on the day is unclear, but Jonathan Rogers, prosecuting at Carlisle Crown Court, said the forklift truck driver had shouted to Mr Brown. He said: 'The driver of the HGV then tried to intervene to try to move in front of the load, maybe to stop it from falling. The load crushed him against the side of his lorry.' The maximum operational capacity of the fork lift truck was 1,520kg, meaning it had been 42 per cent overloaded.

The load's combined weight was 2.2 tons, the court heard . Emergency services were called, but agency driver Mr Brown died at the scene. Howden Joinery admitted health and safety breaches in relation to its own employees and others. The court heard compensation was 'agreed and paid'.

The company was deemed to have had a 'proper system of risk assessments and training' in place, but Judge Peter Hughes QC said this was 'not foolproof'. An investigation uncovered four similar forklift truck overbalancing incidents at the firm's other depots during 2014 alone. Two occurred in the week before the tragedy in Workington.

Ben Compton, representing Howden Joinery, said: 'Can I start by expressing the deep regret this company has for this tragic incident. 'It is three years on but everybody is still deeply traumatised - whether in the boardroom or for those who were involved with this tragedy in Workington at the time. 'I hope the court will allow us to express the profound regret and sincere remorse to Mr Brown's family.'

Judge Hughes said the company's breach of duty was 'a significant cause of death', but acknowledged it had no previous health and safety convictions. Since Mr Brown's death, it has introduced forklift truck overload alarms, and increased the safety zone size for HGV drivers assisting the unloading operation. London-based Howden Joinery - said to have a £1.2 billion annual turnover, 600 UK depots and 7,500 staff - was fined £1.2million and must also pay £33,902 costs.

Health and Safety Executive inspector Steven Boyd said: 'Standing too close to where loading or unloading work is being carried out can put people in harm's way. 'So people such as delivery drivers should be in a position of safety when forklift trucks are operating. 'This tragic incident could have been avoided if Howden Joinery Ltd had implemented a safe procedure to ensure that pedestrians were kept at a safe distance during loading and unloading work. 'Duty holders should be aware that HSE will not hesitate to take appropriate enforcement action against those that fall below the required standards.'

This article appeared in The mail on line

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