A metal fabricator has appeared in the dock over the death of a worker after adopting a riskier method of storing its products following a request by a customer for less packaging.
R Tindall (Fabricators) was fined £70,000 after yard worker Frank Dunne was crushed by 1.8 tonnes of pipework as he attempted to stack bundles of the 6.4m long pipes on top of one another.
Manchester Crown Court heard that a week before the incident, the firm stopped placing the bundles of pipe-work into a wooden frame, which had also made them easier to stack, in response to the request for less packaging. Instead, Mr. Dunne was expected to rest each bundle on a supporting timber batten.
On 17th April 2015 Mr. Dunne was operating a Linde S50 sideloader forklift truck to move the shrink-wrapped bundles of 50mm diameter pipes ready for dispatch. He had already moved one bundle and placed it on the ground on top of the batten.
There were no witnesses to the incident but the HSE inspector Mike Lisle said that Dunne probably got out of the truck to place another batten on top of the bundle already placed on the floor, ready to receive the next load. However, the pipes raised on the tines of the forklift fell and crushed him. The inquest heard that Mr. Dunne had been buried for over 90 minutes until discovered by a colleague.
It is likely that if the original method had been used, Mr. Dunne would not have been in a danger area when the pipes fell.
Although it was later established that the condition of the truck was not a contributory factor, the inquest heard a theory that the vibrations from the forklift’s diesel engine may have been implicated.
Mr. Dunne, 53 was an experienced sideloader operative, having used the trucks when he worked with a previous employer. R Tindall had also organised refresher training for all forklift operators shortly after Mr. Dunne joined the company.
Mr. Lisle said that the firm had been packaging and stacking the bundles of pipes using frames since before Mr. Dunne joined the company in November 2014.
‘They changed back to the old system about a week before the incident and there was nothing in place, no systems of work and no risk assessment. There was no risk assessment for the original practice either. They had a general risk assessment for the site but not a specific assessment to do with stacking these bundles’.
‘If the company had provided a safe system of work for their employees to follow this tragic incident to Mr Dunne could have been avoided.’
In addition to the £70,000 fine R Tindall (fabricators) of West Point Industrial Estate, Hargreaves Street, Oldham were ordered to pay costs of £5000 having pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act.
R Tindall had been issued with six improvement notices and two prohibition in the year of Mr. Dunne’s death. On 10 February, months before Frank died, HSE issued a prohibition notice after it found a Category A defect on a piece of lifting equipment carrying risk of injuries on site.
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