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Lack Of Segregation Causes Fatal Forklift Accident

17th December 2013
Using forklift trucks in a restricted warehouse space can be a common cause of many daily mishaps, which can result in both minor and major accidents. Incidents mostly consist of nudging the corner or sides of bulky goods pallets or reversing into a 'near miss' with a passing co-worker. Unfortunately, there are still many accident claims relating to more serious outcomes caused by a simple lack of segregated space to safely manoeuvre.

Of the 115,000 injuries reported under RIDDOR between 2010 and 2011, forklift accidents rose by 4 per cent in the same period, which could see a return to previous levels for injury claims when around 160 incidents were reported per week and 400 serious personal injuries per year involved forklifts ( HSE).

Many of the most severe injury accidents could be avoided by the enforcement of risk assessments to identify unsafe procedures where ‘short cuts’ are being used in specific tasks to minimise time and costs. A warehouse can quickly become a safety hazard during intensive periods of goods traffic encroaching on space where pedestrians freely pass.

Compliant companies will organise segregated staff walkways and guard rails to avoid collisions with forklifts or other warehouse vehicles. But there will be other companies who simply have not put any adequate safety measures into place.

The most recent example was discovered when a 49 year old female staff worker was crushed under a forklift truck in an area where there was no segregation between vehicles and pedestrians at a wholesale cash and carry depot in Bristol.

Health and Safety inspectors not only found that several ‘near-misses’ had previously occurred in the same depot, but also that the majority of staff “weren't aware of a risk assessment in that area” other than a minimal control measure to inform that “forklifts are operating.”

As a result of a lack of proper segregation between vehicles and pedestrians, the victim was struck and became trapped under the rear left wheel by a reversing forklift loading pallets onto a lorry, and died soon after in hospital from multiple fractures and internal injuries.

The Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974, states that employers have a duty to their employees to provide a safe-working environment in a ‘reasonably practicable’ manner, and ensure that the workers handle and transport objects in a safe way and arrange necessary staff training.