Forklift accidents

Jammed fork causes man serious head injuries

Dec 12th 2012. Two North East firms have been fined after a worker suffered serious head injuries when the fork of a forklift truck struck him on the forehead. The injured man, aged 66, of Felling, Gateshead, was employed by a company who had secured a contract to remove redundant machinery and equipment at the premises of another company in Queensway, Hartlepool and he was carrying out the work with a colleague who was driving the forklift truck.

He was working to remove a piece of equipment from a mezzanine platform and had bent over ready to hook a lifting sling onto the fork of the forklift truck. As the forks were raised, the right hand fork became caught on the stop bracket of the gate to the mezzanine. The driver was unaware and continued to raise the forks. The force was great enough to shear the bracket, releasing the fork which sprung upwards striking him on the forehead. He suffered a double fracture to the skull, facial fractures and a fractured eye socket and continues to suffer both physically and mentally from the incident.

Hartlepool Magistrates' Court heard that an investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that the company had failed to ensure the work was carried out by competent persons and that its control of contractors was inadequate. The investigation also established that the injured man’s employers had failed to adequately assess, plan and carry out the lifting operation or ensure that the workers sent to do the job had not been properly trained.

The company where the accident happened, of Eastmount Road, Darlington, was fined £13,000 and ordered to pay £5,489.40 in costs after pleading guilty to breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.

The injured man’s employers, of Blackthorn Way, Fencehouses, Houghton-le-Spring was fined £4,000 and ordered to pay £4,600 in costs after pleading guilty to breaching Regulation 8(1)(c) of the Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998.

After the hearing, HSE Inspector Victoria Wise added:

"What happened on that day was totally preventable. Both companies failed in their duty of care to Mr xxxxxxx and as a result he suffered serious head injuries. It clearly illustrates the importance of ensuring that lifting operations are properly planned and managed by a competent person."

A father of two, with five grandchildren, the injured man had hoped to continue working but the on going effects of his injuries have now forced him to retire. He does not feel up to talking independently about his experiences, but speaking on his behalf his wife Brenda explained:

"He  loved his job, he'd been in the trade for 49 years and had been self-employed working with the company for the last eight years. He really misses it, but he's just not able to continue working now. He gets ongoing support from a support worker, case manager, physiotherapist and a psychologist. He still suffers short term memory loss and it's also affected his hearing, balance and taste, and we don't know in the long term whether that will ever improve. It's had a big impact on us both and the family. It's changed everything. He was once so active and independent but now I have to spend more and more time with him, as you worry all the time if he's safe. I hope that this case will help highlight the importance of safety. Companies cannot afford to cut corners on safety putting people's lives at risk. Jim was lucky, he could have been killed in this terrible incident and I just hope we can help stop anything like this happening to anyone else."