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News added on 21.01.2020

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Lifting operations

Lack of planning led to death by crushing

A customer was trapped and crushed to death by a lift truck that he had just purchased. What led to this tragic accident and why was the seller responsible?

Mr Spence (S) bought a lift truck from Michael Douglas Autosalvage Ltd (MDA). The lift truck was being loaded onto S's recovery vehicle using MDA's skip lorry. The winch cable was attached to a metal ring on the lift truck, but this failed during the lifting operation, causing the cable to detach. S fell from the vehicle, followed by the two-and-half tonne lift truck. He was trapped by the lift truck against the skip lorry and suffered fatal crush injuries.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive found that MDA had failed to ensure that this complex lifting operation was properly planned by a competent person and that it had failed in its duty not to expose its customers to risks to their safety. A competent person would have identified that this loading method with this equipment was fundamentally unsafe.

Businesses must ensure that lifting operations are properly planned by a competent person, supervised and carried out safely, for the safety of their own employees and others in the vicinity. Competent planning of this lift would have ensured that the appropriate equipment and safe working practices were used.

MDA pleaded guilty to breaching its duty under s.3(1) Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 to ensure, as far as is reasonably practicable, that non-employees are not exposed to health and safety risks as a result of its activities. It was fined £23,000 and ordered to pay costs of £8,000.

This fatal accident occurred while lifting the customer’s lift truck onto the back of his vehicle. The lift was poorly planned, so unsuitable lifting equipment and methods were used. The company that sold him the truck was responsible for planning the lifting operation, so was held liable under health and safety law for putting the customer at risk.

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