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    FORK LIFT DEATH CAUSED BY BROKEN WINDOW

    Damaged window leads to telehandler operator fatal injuries

    The perils of not properly maintaining construction plant are highlighted by the death of a telescopic forklift truck driver who was crushed between the arm and side of his vehicle at a Waste Water Treatment Works.

    Two contractors have now been prosecuted and ordered to pay over £1/4m in fines and prosecution costs. MB Plastics Ltd of Warrington must pay £174k whilst Birse Water Ltd, now trading as Birse Integrated Solutions Ltd, will pay over £90k.

    The off-side cab window of the vehicle was damaged and the most likely explanation is that the operator leant out of the cab window, came into contact with the joystick thereby bringing the arm of the forklift truck down onto him. The window was damaged five weeks before the fatal incident. 

    HSE Inspector Warren Pennington said: “MB Plastics Ltd did not have a system in place for formal regular inspections of the plant. As a result, the company failed to maintain the cab window which could have saved this man’s life.” He added that Birse, the principal contractor: “had a comprehensive management system but it was not implemented and, as a result, something as simple as a missing window was not spotted.”

    Judge Lakin said: “The harsh reality of this case is that, in relation to this contract, MB completely failed to have any proper regard to their health and safety obligations. This directly led to the development of an unsafe and sloppy system of work in relation to the use of telehandlers.”

    Regarding the role of Birse the Judge commented that as principal contractor they: “failed to implement their own systems and accordingly failed to properly monitor what MB were doing. This lack of monitoring allowed MB’s disregard for health and safety to continue over a number of weeks. In short, Birse failed in their supervisory role.”

    Comment: Telehandlers are second most common cause of mobile plant related deaths in construction (around 21% after excavators 34%). There are three key aspects to fork lift safety: Safe Plant, Safe Site, Safe Driver. In this case the first element of providing a properly maintained item of plant was not achieved by the contractor. Likewise, CDM 2007 also contains an important triolgy for Principal Contractors and Contractors: Plan, Manage and Monitor. In the view of the sentencing judge, failure to effectively monitor safety standards also contributed to this tragic death.

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