Forklift operator fined after dangerous lift causes injury

Monday, May 19, 2014 - 12:30
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FINED: Stephen Bellingham (not shown) fined for incident

A forklift operator has been fined for safety failings after a teenager was seriously injured by a half-tonne heating unit during a dangerous lifting operation.

The anonymous 18-year-old victim required reconstructive surgery after sustaining multiple fractures of his right shoulder, left shin bone and left ankle in the incident, at a Maidstone manufacturing company in June 2013.

He was crushed by a large 493kg unit after being asked to hold it in place on the forks of a truck driven by co-worker Stephen Bellingham.

Mr Bellingham, 49, from Larkfield, had been moving the heater in an inherently unsafe manner, investigators from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) discovered.

“This incident demonstrates all too clearly that a single poor decision can have devastating consequences.”

Kevin Golding, HSE

Maidstone magistrates heard the unit had been removed from a factory building and placed next to a skip that he wanted to access, as his role included sorting and loading waste into skips using a forklift.

He managed to manoeuvre the unit onto the forks of the truck, but noted it was unstable and asked a passing colleague to help steady the load.

The co-worker held it in place as best he could, but as it was lifted it slid off and fell, landing on top of him because he unable to move away.

HSE established Mr Bellingham was acting entirely independently in opting to move the unit in this way.

He was, the court heard, an experienced forklift operator, but failed to assess the risks and possible consequences.

The court were told that had the lift been properly planned and managed, an alternative, safer method could have been found.

Stephen Bellingham, of Brooklands Road, Larkfield, was fined a nominal £270 after pleading guilty to a single breach of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.

The low penalty reflected the fact he was dismissed for gross misconduct as a result of the incident, and has been unable to find alternative employment or claim any benefits since.

Magistrates said a higher fine would not compensate for the suffering he has already endured because of a momentary lapse of judgement.

Kevin Golding, Inspector at the HSE, said: “This incident demonstrates all too clearly that a single poor decision – on this occasion asking an inexperienced colleague to stand in a dangerous position to steady a large, heavy and unstable load – can have devastating consequences.

“The young worker is fortunate to have regained full mobility, but he was unable to work for a considerable period.

“His ordeal should serve as a powerful reminder to all employees, particularly those in control of potentially dangerous machinery, to fully consider the consequences of their actions.

“Stephen Bellingham failed to do this.

“All lifting operations should be properly planned and assessed, and where a load appears to be unstable the operation must be stopped immediately to consider appropriate restraints or alternative methods.”

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