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Operator fined after worker falls from forklift in unsafe operation

  • 11 February 2014
  • By Roger Brown

Cheese manufacturer Joseph Heler has been fined £8,000 after a worker injured his leg and ankle when he fell from the forks of a forklift truck during an unsafe loading operation.

In a Health and Safety Executive (HSE) prosecution, Chester Magistrates’ Court heard how the injured worker, a 53-year-old from Crewe who does not want to be named, had been helping to load cheese onto a wagon at the firm’s plant in Hatherton, near Nantwich, Cheshire, in July 2012.

The man was being lifted up to the lorry, with one foot on each prong on the forklift, when the forks hit the back of the vehicle and jolted. He fell about a metre to the ground, suffering cuts to his left leg and multiple fractures to his ankle.

An HSE investigation found it had become common practice at the firm for people to be lifted on forklift prongs. The company had failed to identify this as an issue, despite it being illegal.

The court was told that no risk assessment had been carried out for the work and no other method for accessing the lorries was available. After the incident, the firm provided steps to reach the back of the vehicles, and it has since changed the way it prepares deliveries altogether.

Joseph Heler was also ordered to pay £709 in prosecution costs after pleading guilty to a breach of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector Jane Carroll said Joseph Heler had regularly allowed workers to stand on the forks on forklift trucks, despite this being illegal and posing a clear risk.

She added: “The injuries suffered by the worker could easily have been life-threatening had he struck his head when he fell. Joseph Heler failed to give its employees any guidance on how they should access and load the wagon, and failed to put systems in place to make sure the risk of injury was minimised. The changes the company has made following the incident show it would have been possible for the work to be carried out safely.”


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