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Forklift Accident

Posted: Wednesday 9th, January 2013

Two north east firms fined after worker suffered serious head injuries
Date: 12 December 2012
Release No: NE/099/12

Two North East firms have been fined after a worker suffered serious head injuries when the fork of a forklift truck struck him on the forehead.

Jim McGowan, 66, of Felling, Gateshead, was employed by MD Engineering Services (UK) Ltd when the incident happened on 15 December 2010.

The company had secured a contract to remove redundant machinery and equipment at the premises of SAICA Pack UK Ltd in Queensway, Hartlepool and he was carrying out the work with a colleague who was driving the forklift truck.

Mr McGowan was working to remove a piece of equipment from a mezzanine platform and had bent over ready to hook a lifting sling onto the fork of the forklift truck.

As the forks were raised, the right hand fork became caught on the stop bracket of the gate to the mezzanine. The driver was unaware and continued to raise the forks. The force was great enough to shear the bracket, releasing the fork which sprung upwards striking Mr McGowan on the forehead.

He suffered a double fracture to the skull, facial fractures and a fractured eye socket and continues to suffer both physically and mentally from the incident.

Hartlepool Magistrates' Court heard today (12 December) that an investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that SAICA Pack UK Ltd had failed to ensure the work was carried out by competent persons and that its control of contractors was inadequate.

The investigation also established that MD Engineering Services (UK) Ltd had failed to adequately assess, plan and carry out the lifting operation or ensure that the workers sent to do the job had not been properly trained.

SAICA Pack UK Ltd, of Eastmount Road, Darlington was fined £13,000 and ordered to pay £5,489.40 in costs after pleading guilty to breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.

MD Engineering Services (UK) Ltd, of Blackthorn Way, Fencehouses, Houghton-le-Spring was fined £4,000 and ordered to pay £4,600 in costs after pleading guilty to breaching Regulation 8(1)(c) of the Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998.

After the hearing, HSE Inspector Victoria Wise added:

"What happened on that day was totally preventable. Both companies failed in their duty of care to Mr McGowan and as a result he suffered serious head injuries.

"It clearly illustrates the importance of ensuring that lifting operations are properly planned and managed by a competent person."

A father of two, with five grandchildren, Mr McGowan had hoped to continue working but the ongoing effects of his injuries have now forced him to retire.

He does not feel up to talking independently about his experiences, but speaking on his behalf his wife Brenda explained:

"Jim loved his job, he'd been in the trade for 49 years and had been self-employed working with MD Engineering for the last eight years. He really misses it, but he's just not able to continue working now.

"He gets ongoing support from a support worker, case manager, physiotherapist and a psychologist. He still suffers short-term memory loss and it's also affected his hearing, balance and taste, and we don't know in the long term whether that will ever improve.

"It's had a big impact on us both and the family. It's changed everything. He was once so active and independent but now I have to spend more and more time with him, as you worry all the time if he's safe.

"I hope that this case will help highlight the importance of safety, companies cannot afford to cut corners on safety putting people's lives at risk. Jim was lucky, he could have been killed in this terrible incident and I just hope we can help stop anything like this happening to anyone else."

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