Ordering Workers to Work Unsafely Can Lead to Jail Time

The gap where the worker's arm was crushed (Photo courtesy of the HSE)

The gap where the worker’s arm was crushed (Photo courtesy of the HSE)

If you purposely order workers to perform unsafe tasks and they become injured or killed, not only is your business liable for civil penalties, but you as the owner can be sentenced to prison.

That’s the lesson the owner of a scrap metal company in the UK found out the hard way last month. A court in Manchester, England, sentenced Nasir Rashid, 36, of London — owner of Levenshulme Trading Estate — to 18 months in prison after one of his employees suffered permanent injuries in a forklift accident at his business.

Worker Order to Stand on Forks

When the incident occurred Nov. 8, 2013, when Rashid was operating a forklift to load scrap cars onto the back of a shipping container. He told a 30-year-old employee to stand on the forks of the vehicle to help maneuver the scrap metal, which was being exported to Pakistan where it was to be sold.

During the task, the worker’s arm became trapped within the mast hydraulics of the forklift. It took more than two hours for rescue workers from three separate fire brigades, a specialist major rescue unit, and three ambulance crews to free his limb, which suffered severe crushing injuries.

The worker sustained nerve damage to his left arm and was hospitalized for two nearly two months while recovering from his injuries. He still needs to visit Manchester Royal Infirmary regularly for treatment and has not recovered full use of his arm, making it difficult to grip or lift items. The man is not able to work as a result of his injuries.

Jail Time, Fines

It took the company three months to report the incident to the Health and Safety Executive — the UK’s version of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration — despite being told on several occasions that it was required, according to court documents.

While Rashid’s jail sentence was suspended, he was ordered to pay costs of £750 — or $1,040 — after pleading guilty to violating the UK’s labor safety laws, according to HSE Inspector Sarah Taylor.

His company, Universal Traders, Ltd., of Wembley. was given the nominal fine of £2 — or $2.77 — after a discussion of the firm’s finances.

“Ultimate Traders and Nasir Rashid had a legal responsibility to make sure the worker stayed safe, but instead he was instructed to climb onto the forks of a forklift truck to move scrap cars into a container,” Taylor said in a news release announcing the court’s ruling. “He suffered severe injuries as a result which will affect him for the rest of his life.

“Workers should never be allowed to stand directly on the forks on a forklift truck because of the risk of them falling or being injured by moving parts on the mast,” Taylor said. “This case should act as a warning to firms that they will find themselves in court if they do not take the safety of workers seriously.”


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