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News added on 02.12.2019

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Unsafe stacking of bags led to serious injuries

An employee was seriously injured at work when a one-tonne storage bag fell on them. How could their employer have prevented this accident?

An employee at packaging manufacturer Sirap UK Ltd (S) was operating a fork lift truck near a row of stacked flexible intermediate bulk containers (FIBCs). FIBCs, also known as “bulk bags” or “dumpy bags”, are large reinforced fabric bags, commonly used in many industries to store and transport materials, particularly loose granular or powdered products.

The employee reversed the fork lift truck and it caught one of the FIBCs at the bottom of the stack, causing it to tear and spill its contents. They attempted to repair the tear, but an FIBC at the top of the stack became unstable. It fell and struck the employee, who suffered multiple fractures to their pelvis and legs.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigated and found that the FIBCs, which each weighed around one tonne, were stacked in an unsafe manner at a height of approximately 2.2 metres. The HSE concluded that S’s arrangements for the everyday storage, reuse and repair of FIBCs created a risk of injury.

S pleaded guilty to breaching two health and safety duties: its general duty under s.2(1) Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of all of its employees; and its specific duty under regulation 10(4) Work at Height Regulations 2005 to ensure that objects in the workplace are stored safely.

S was fined £150,000 and ordered to pay over £1,060 in costs.

Bulk storage bags are commonly used in many workplaces but the employer in this case failed to ensure they were stacked in a safe formation. It should also have implemented safe systems for reusing and repairing the bags.

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