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Worker falls from cage balanced on fork lift

23 March 2011 Email this article

A Yeovil vehicle repair and sales company has today been prosecuted after one of its workers fell from a cage balanced on a fork lift truck.

Douglas Mowat, 38, from Yeovil, Somerset was an employee of Vincents Car Sales Ltd and was carrying out repair work on a high-sided lorry on 18 August 2008 when the incident happened.

Mr Mowat was attempting to change a marker light at the back of the lorry, but the equipment he had been supplied with was not adequate for this task. He had been given a step ladder which wasn't tall enough. Instead, he placed a metal cage on the forks of a fork lift truck and stood on top of the cage while a colleague raised the forks.

While being raised, the cage came off the forks and Mr Mowat fell to the ground, fracturing his elbow and badly bruising his shoulder. He continues to suffer from health problems following the incident, including ongoing shoulder pain and back problems.

An HSE investigation found Vincent Car Sales Ltd had not carried out a risk assessment for repairs to high-sided vehicles and had failed to provide a safe system of work.

Since the incident, the firm has entered administration but it was decided the firm would still be liable for prosecution given the severity of the breach.

After the hearing, Caroline Coleman, HSE Inspector, said:

"It is not safe to use a cage on the forks of a fork lift truck, unless it is specially designed for this use and properly secured. As witnessed here, a metal cage on metal forks can easily slip.

"This type of incident is unfortunately all too common. HSE has successfully prosecuted several companies in relation to similar incidents, some of which have led to serious injuries.

"Businesses have a responsibility to ensure employees are adequately trained and equipped to work safely with fork lifts."

Vincents Car Sales Ltd, of Vincents Chambers, Market Street, Yeovil, was not present in Bristol Magistrates Court, but the breach of Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work (Etc) Act 1974 was proved in its absence. It was fined £5,000.

In 2008/2009 over 4,000 major injuries were caused by falls from height at work. More information about preventing falls from height at work can be found at http://www.hse.gov.uk/falls/