Forklift truck overbalancing incident

15th March 2018

Forklift truck overbalancing incident

A major UK Kitchen company has been fined over £1.2 million after a delivery driver was crushed to death while delivering kitchen worktops, in a forklift truck overbalancing incident.

Agency worker Richard Brown suffered fatal injuries while making a delivery to Howden Joinery’s premises in Workington, Cumbria.

Carlise Crown Court heard that 48 year old Brown was crushed when the forklift “overbalanced” as it tried to unload two pallets of kitchen worktops from the lorries trailer. The falling load weighed 2,160kg and crushed him against his lorry. The court heard the maximum operational capacity of the fork-lift truck was 1,520kg – meaning it had been 42% overloaded.

An investigation into the incident, which took place on 10 November 2014, found the forklift had been overloaded, and that visiting delivery drivers were not kept at a safe distance from the loading and unloading operations.

“Delivery drivers should be in a position of safety when forklift trucks are operating”

forklift truck overbalancing incident

Though Howden’s was deemed to have had a proper system of risk assessments and training in place, Judge Peter Hughes QC concluded this was “not fool-proof”.

The investigation revealed there had been four similar forklift truck overbalancing incident’s at other Howden Joinery depots during 2014 alone. Two of those occurred in the week before the Workington tragedy.

Since Brown’s death, the firm has introduced forklift truck overload alarms and increased the safety zone size for HGV drivers.

Howden Joinery – which is said to have a £1.2 billion annual turnover, 600 UK depots and 7,500 staff – pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2(1) and 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act. As well as the £1.2 million fine, it was ordered to pay £33,902 in costs.

Speaking after the  hearing, HSE Inspector Steven Boyd said: “Standing too close to where loading or unloading work is being carried our can put people in harm’s way so people, such as delivery drivers, should be in a position of safety when forklift trucks are operating.

“This tragic incident could have been avoided if Howden Joinery had implemented a safe procedure to ensure that pedestrians were kept at a safe distance during loading and unloading work”.



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