Too Little, Too Late for Worker Injured in Forklift Crash

Police LineA second worker has been injured at a produce warehouse in the UK that already had been ordered to improve forklift safety after earlier crash injured another employee.

The owners of MyFresh Prepared  Produce — a produce warehouse in Chicksands, Bedfordshire — had been ordered to prevent workers and forklifts from sharing the same pathways after a 43-year-old worker was caught between two forklifts on the warehouse floor.

On January 15, 2014, Chris Bottesch was talking with another forklift operator when became crushed between two vehicles. He suffered multiple fractures to his right leg, hip and foot and had to undergo surgery to have metal pins an plates inserted into his injured leg.

Bottesch, who also suffered nerve damage that causes him to have a dropped left foot, missed more than a year of work as he struggled to recover from his injuries. Eventually, he was brought back to the warehouse and given a desk job.

Improvement Notice Issued

As a result of that incident, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) — the UK’s equivalent of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration in the US — gave the warehouse 90 days to comply with an Improvement Notice that required substantive improvements to its safety so that workers and forklifts no longer shared common pathways.

But six days before that deadline was reached, a second worker was struck and injured by a forklift at the warehouse.

On April 23, a 44-year-old quality control technician from Bedford — whose name was not made public —  was inspecting raw material when he was struck by a forklift that had been backing up. The worker suffered a fracture to his lower left leg.

Now the company has been ordered to pay nearly $70,000 in fines and court costs after pleading guilty to violating multiple workplace safety rules.

‘Lack of Control’ Led to Hazardous Conditions

The inspector who investigated the crashes — Emma Page — said the warehouse’s lack of control over where forklifts and pedestrians were moving made it a hazardous place for employees to work.

“Prior to the two incidents, we identified evidence of near misses in the Chicksands goods yard that should have alerted MyFresh to the need to better manage the movement of people and forklift trucks,” Page told the website Works Management. “The risks were clear, but not enough was done to control them and Mr. Bottesch was seriously injured as a result.”

While the company tried to make the necessary improvements, its actions came too late for the second injured employee.

“The second incident happened while changes were belatedly being made to improve systems or work in order to comply with the Improvement Notice,” said Page. “However, the company had failed to identify quality control operatives as persons at risk. As a result, they had not considered what controls might be necessary to separate these workers whilst they were carrying out their checks in the yard.

“It was another incident that was entirely preventable,” she said.

 

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