20 Mar 2015

Produce company in court after reversing forklifts injure workers

An East Yorkshire produce company has been ordered to pay more than £46,000 after two workers were seriously injured by reversing forklift trucks in separate incidents at its vegetable processing factory in Chicksands, Bedfordshire.

The first occurred at MyFresh Prepared Produce, at Chicksands, on 15 January 2014 as warehouse team leader Chris Bottesch, 43, of Flitwick, was talking to another forklift driver in the goods yard.

He sustained multiple fractures to his right leg, hip and foot after being trapped between two forklifts. He was forced to undergo surgery to have metal pins and plates inserted into his injured leg, and also suffered nerve damage that has left him with drop foot.

Mr Bottesch was off work for a year, before returning to an administrative role as his injuries meant he was no longer able to cope with the physical demands of his former position.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) into the incident found there were minimal restrictions on vehicle and pedestrian activity in the goods yard at Chicksands. There were no specified vehicle and pedestrian routes, despite the area being cluttered and busy, and the supervision of yard activities was found to be inadequate.

As such, Hessle-based MyFresh was served with an Improvement Notice to make changes to improve safety.

The notice required improvements to be made by 29 April, however, six days before the compliance date – on 23 April – there was a second incident in the same yard.

This time a 44 year-old quality control technician, from Bedford, who does not want to be named, was struck by a reversing forklift truck while inspecting raw material. He suffered a fracture to his lower left leg.

The court was told that both incidents could have been prevented had work in the goods yard, principally vehicle movements, been better controlled and managed.

MyFresh Prepared Produce Ltd, of Livingstone Road, Hessle, East Yorkshire, was fined a total of £38,000 and ordered to pay £8,320 in costs as well as a victim surcharge of £120 after pleading guilty to breaching sections 2(1) and 3(1) of the Health & Safety at Work Act 1974.

Outside court, HSE Inspector, Emma Page said:

“Prior to the two incidents, we identified evidence of near misses in the Chicksands goods yard that should have alerted MyFresh to the need to better manage the movement of people and forklift trucks.

“The risks were clear, but not enough was done to control them and Mr Bottesch was seriously injured as a result.

“The second incident happened while changes were belatedly being made to improve systems of work in order to comply with the Improvement Notice. However, the company had failed to identify quality control operatives as persons at risk. As a result they had not considered what controls might be necessary to separate these workers whilst they were carrying out their checks in the yard.

“It was another incident that was entirely preventable.”

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