On 27 June 2018, Palmer Timber Ltd was fined £730,000 after the driver of a sideloader forklift truck hit two workers crossing its timber yard in Cradley Heath in the West Midlands.
The two employees were walking across the yard on 23 February 2015 when the accident happened. One worker suffered a fractured ankle while the other sustained multiple serious injuries, including a fractured eye socket and collar bone, a severed thumb, damage to his tongue and broken bones, and needed skin grafts.
Investigation officers found that the yard had unsafe workplace traffic routes as Palmer Timber had failed to ensure pedestrians and vehicles could move safely around the workplace.
The company pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 17, of the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations, which covers the organisation of traffic routes. It was also ordered to pay £13,845 costs.
HSE inspector Richard Littlefair said: “This incident could have been much worse with the potential for fatal injuries. There were reasonably practicable measures which should have been in place to allow for vehicles and pedestrians to circulate in a safe manner.”
Between 2016 and 2017, 137 people were killed at work in Britain, and 31 of those deaths involved a moving vehicle - this means that more than 22% of all workplace deaths could have been avoided with proper vehicular safety. As highlighted in this case, the key risk for builders merchants is vehicle/pedestrian collision - in particular, forklift truck or lorry collision with customers or workers.
Forklift trucks and lorries should be segregated from pedestrians as far as possible by use of designated pedestrian walkways, barriers, areas out of bounds to customers (using signage), adequate lighting and site layout (including one-way systems for lorries). We always recommend that workers should keep a minimum of 2 metres clear of moving lift trucks. This can be reinforced through training and sticker signs displayed on lift trucks.
If you are considering outsourcing your health and safety needs and would like a free no-obligation visit from one of our health and safety experts for a review of your site-specific workplace transport arrangements, please book your free on-site consultation now.