Suffolk: Freight Company Fined £50,000 After Worker Was Injured

16 August 2013, 10:01 | Updated: 16 August 2013, 10:28

A Suffolk based freight company has been fined £50,000 after one of its forklift trucks toppled over, breaking a man's back.

56 year old Neil Jennings, from Ipswich, was waiting for his trailer to be loaded in the yard of Eagle Freight Terminal Ltd at its Great Blakenham site when one of the forklifts doing the loading hit a pothole. The vehicle then lurched sideways and pallets and boxes fell off, one of which hit Mr Jennings.

He suffered multiple fractures to his back and was unable to work for several weeks. Mr Jennings can now only undertake light duties and can no longer carry out everyday tasks without pain and discomfort.

The case, which happened on 9th January 2012, was investigated by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). It prosecuted Eagle Freight Terminal Ltd at Ipswich Magistrates' Court yesterday (15th August).

HSE found that the freight yard road surface was covered with potholes and had been complained about by the company's employees for a long time. There was little management of traffic movements and no instructions were given about separating workplace transport and pedestrians.

The court was told that two Improvement Notices were served by HSE on Eagle Freight requiring them to remedy the condition of the yard's surface and to introduce systems of control to ensure vehicles and pedestrians could move safely. Despite two extensions of time to allow for the remedial work to be completed, an inspection carried out in September 2012 revealed no work had been completed and neither of the Notices had been complied with.

Ipswich Magistrates' Court heard that the company had been subject to similar enforcement action by HSE as far back as 2002/3 about the lack of control of workplace transport.

Eagle Freight Terminal Ltd of Lodge Lane, Great Blakenham, Ipswich, was fined a total of £50,000 and ordered to pay costs of £4,501.23 plus £120 victim surcharge.

After the case, HSE Inspector Paul Grover, said: "This was an entirely preventable injury caused by persistent disregard by Eagle Freight of basic safety measures. The company allowed the yard's surface to deteriorate so badly that forklift trucks were regularly destabilised when carrying loads.

"There was also no system to allow vehicles and pedestrians to move safely around each other and the forklift truck driver had not been given suitable training which resulted in him using unsafe work practices where the truck was driven with the forks and load lifted.

"The company's subsequent repeated failure to meet the requirements of the two improvement notices demonstrated their complete disregard for their legal responsibility to keep their employees, and non-employees visiting the site, safe.

"The risks of serious injury and, all too frequently, death, resulting from the failure to control the safe movement of vehicles and pedestrians are widely recognised.

"Putting safe working practices in place is often simple and inexpensive and where this doesn't happen the costs, both financial and personal, can be immense."