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Forklift driver's lucky escape at Hemel warehouse

A forklift truck driver could have been seriously injured or even killed when the vehicle he was operating overturned at a warehouse in Hemel Hempstead, a court has been told.

The worker was using the truck to align a one and a half tonne storage container on top of a stack of containers when it overturned at the Cadogan Tate site on Eastman Way on 13 April 2011.

His employer, Cadogan Tate Head Office and Treasury Service Ltd, was prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) after its investigation found the container was more than two and a half times the safe lifting capacity of the forklift.

Watford Magistrates' Court heard today (6 June 2012) that one of Cadogan Tate's employees had used the forklift truck to lift the storage container, which was filled with books and magazines, on top of a stack of three other containers the day before the incident.

As he lifted it, the rear wheel on the left hand side of the truck lifted off the ground and the container was left overhanging the top of the stack, more than seven metres in the air.

The following day, a supervisor was asked to assess if the forklift truck could be returned to a stable position and the overhanging container aligned. He strapped himself in and tried to move the container. The forklift overturned. He escaped without any injuries.

Cadogan Tate Head Office and Treasury Service Ltd admitted breaching the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 by failing to provide suitable work equipment.

The company, which is part of the global removals, storage and shipping group, Cadogan Tate, also pleaded guilty to a breach of the Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998 after it failed to make sure the work was planned and carried out safety.

The firm, of Acton Lane in London, was fined £15,000 and ordered to pay £3,860 in prosecution costs.

Speaking after the hearing, the investigating inspector at HSE, Sandra Dias, said:

"The worker at the Cadogan Tate warehouse was lucky not to have been seriously injured or even to have lost his life as a result of the forklift truck overturning.

"The company specialises in storage and removals and so it regularly uses forklift trucks to move containers. It made a basic error by failing to assess the weight of the container before allowing it to be lifted.

"The container was much heavier than most of the others at the warehouse, and the contents should have been split before it was stacked.

"Sadly, overturned vehicles cause several deaths in British workplaces every year. Employers must do more to make sure lives aren't put at risk."

A total of three deaths and ten major injuries were reported in 2010/11, caused by workplace vehicles overturning. Information on how to prevent injuries is available at www.hse.gov.uk/workplacetransport.

Notes to editors

  1. The Health and Safety Executive is Britain's national regulator for workplace health and safety. It aims to reduce work-related death, injury and ill health. It does so through research, information and advice; promoting training; new or revised regulations and codes of practice; and working with local authority partners by inspection, investigation and enforcement. www.hse.gov.uk
  2. Regulation 4(3) of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 states: "Every employer shall ensure that work equipment is used only for operations for which, and under conditions for which, it is suitable."
  3. Regulation 8 of the Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998 states: "Every employer shall ensure that every lifting operation involving lifting equipment is properly planned by a competent person, appropriately supervised, and carried out in a safe manner."

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Issued on behalf of the Health and Safety Executive by the Regional News Network

Updated 2012-11-06