Meditek Ltd, a Newton Aycliffe-based stairlift manufacturer, has been prosecuted for safety failings after a delivery driver was seriously injured when he was struck by a reversing fork lift truck.
The unnamed 62-year-old was working for a haulage contractor when the incident occurred in November 2013 as he delivered to Meditek.
He was in the goods-in area of the factory and, having completed his paperwork, was heading back to his vehicle when he saw a fork lift truck reversing towards him. He instinctively moved to his left, towards his trailer, in an attempt to avoid it, but the fork lift turned in the same direction, knocking him to the ground and running over both of his feet.
He suffered de-gloving of the big toe on his left foot and severe bruising and grazing to both feet and legs. He had to undergo surgery to repair his toe, but this was unsuccessful and the toe was amputated the following month.
Darlington Magistrates’ Court heard that an investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that although the driver of the fork lift truck failed to ensure that there was no one behind him before he reversed, at the time of the incident the management of vehicles and pedestrians was inadequate. In particular delivery drivers were allowed to walk around the loading area watching while their lorry was loaded.
Although there was a risk assessment covering the goods-in and goods-out areas, it did not consider the foreseeable risk that people in those areas might be struck by a moving vehicle.
The court was also told that while some improvements were made by the company immediately following the incident, an Improvement Notice was still necessary to ensure external areas of the workplace were organised in such a way that pedestrians and vehicles could circulate in a safe manner.
The company complied with the notice by reviewing its management of pedestrians and vehicles across the factory, and by simply preventing delivery drivers from standing in the loading and unloading areas while the fork lift truck was operating.
Meditek Ltd was fined £3,300 and ordered to pay £790.60 in costs and £1,000 compensation after pleading guilty to breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.
After the case, HSE inspector Victoria Wise said: “Meditek cooperated fully with HSE’s investigation and accepted that this incident was easily preventable had it identified the risks to pedestrians in the loading area associated with moving vehicles.
“The close proximity of the delivery driver in an area where a fork lift truck was reversing was unsafe. The risks associated with pedestrians and vehicles working in proximity to each other are well known and there is plenty of advice available on how to reduce those risks.
“This delivery driver suffered a serious injury because of the company’s failures.”