Grantham firm fined after death of forklift driver

A Grantham company has been fined £300,000 at Lincoln Crown Court for a breach of health and safety regulations following the death of a forklift truck driver.

Vacu-Lug Traction Tyres Ltd, based at Gonerby Hill Foot, had previously admitted a charge of failing to ensure the health and safety of its employees following the death of Stephen Woollas in July 2014.

The company was also ordered to pay £25,000 towards prosecution costs.

Mr Woollas, who was not wearing a seat belt, died after the forklift truck he was driving tipped over crushing him underneath it.

Alex Stein, prosecuting, said that although the company had health and safety policies in place requiring workers to wear seat belts they did not enforce it.

The investigation into the death of Mr Woollas revealed that the warning device on the seat belt which should have sounded if the belt was not being worn had been disabled.

Instead the belt had been clipped into the latching mechanism behind the seat. Other forklift trucks at the premises, which remoulds tyres, also had the warning device disabled.

The company also failed to enforce a policy that forklift driver should only use reverse when their view going forwards was obstructed.

At the time of the fatal incident Mr Woollas was moving a load of tyres while travelling forward but was unable to fully see what was ahead of him.

Mr Stein said: “Mr Woollas was driving a fork-lift truck at the company’s site when the truck tipped onto its side and he was crushed under it.

“He was driving without a seat belt carrying a load of tyres. There was a restricted view available to him as he was driving forwards. The requirement to reverse in the fork-lift truck wasn’t being enforced.

“The forklift truck became destabilised and tipped over. The investigator is confident that the destabilising came from riding over a tyre. Because Mr Woollas was driving forward with a stack in front of him he had no chance of seeing anything.

“As the fork-lift truck fell over Mr Woollas was trapped. Workers did their very best to free him and an ambulance was called but tragically he did not survive.”

Mr Woollas’ daughter Emily, in a statement read to the court, said: “So many of us have so many beautiful memories of my dad. His sudden and tragic death has left a huge void in all our lives.”

Malcolm Galloway, for Vacu-Lug, said “The company accepts by its plea that it did not do sufficient.

“This is not a bad company. It had taken health and safety very, very seriously and was doing its utmost to make sure that its employees worked within a safe environment.

“This was a company with systems in place to try and be proactive with health and safety. This is not a case of total failure by the company due to disregard and not caring.”

He said the firm, which has a current turnover of £17 million, has a deficit in its pension fund.

“This is a company that is in a genuinely difficult financial position most of which is not the responsibility of the current management.”

Source Lincolnshire Reporter