HSE warns companies to prevent falls from vehicles following fatal incident

Tuesday, 1st Jul '08 at 07:46

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is warning employers that they must ensure the safety of drivers who load and unload goods. This follows an incident where HGV driver Nigel Sargeant, age 46, of Boston fell 15 feet from his trailer and suffered fatal head injuries.

Saint Gobain Building Distribution Ltd were fined a total of £120,000 and ordered to pay £51,000 costs by Lincoln Crown Court today after being found guilty of breaching health and safety law.

Boston-based Calders and Grandidge Limited (part of Saint Gobain) manufacture and supply wooden telegraph poles. In 2005 they decided to supply metal poles as a new product line. On 5 August, the day before the first full load of such poles were to be dispatched, Mr Sargeant was concerned about the height of a load and climbed onto a vehicle to attempt to lower it. While doing so, he fell approximately 15 feet and suffered fatal head injuries.

HSE inspector Jo Anderson said:

"Every year 2000 workers are seriously injured after falling from their vehicle and last year four workers actually lost their lives after falling from their truck or lorry. It is vital that those who work in the transport industry take this issue seriously.

“On 5 August, the workers had been left to their own devices to work out a method to load the poles. Mr Sargeant became concerned about the clearance beneath bridges of a load.

He cut the bands around one of the pole packs and the load shifted causing him to fall. The height of the load exceeded the height of the pins fitted to the trailer to hold the load in place.

“This incident highlights the need for employers to recognise the risk of drivers falling when loading and unloading vehicles. They need to put measures in place to prevent this sort of incident from happening again. Had the correct measures been in place Mr Sargeant may not have died.

"Companies must have procedures in place to identify new or changed products and the impact that their introduction will have on existing systems and procedures. In this case, there was no procedure in place and therefore no risk assessment was undertaken for the loading of metal poles, despite it being recognised as a problem, as workers were finding it difficult to load the metal poles with the equipment provided which was suitable for timber poles".

The charges were brought under regulation 5(1) of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 for failing to have arrangements in place to manage the introduction of new products and systems and regulation 3(1)(a) of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 for failing to perform a suitable and sufficient risk assessment for the loading of steel poles onto trailers .

Charges brought under section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 for failing to provide a safe system of work for the loading of steel poles onto trailers the were discharged by the judge at a previous hearing after the jury failed to reach a decision.

HSE's Falls from Vehicles Campaign

Further information and guidance are available on the HSE's Falls from vehicles campaign website:     http://www.hse.gov.uk/fallsfromvehicles/

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