A cargo handling company has been fined £200,000 after an employee was fatally crushed between shipping containers while working in a container park in Portsmouth.
On 25 August 2017, the employee was working a night shift for Portico Shipping Ltd. His job was to connect refrigerated container units to electrical supplies which the forklift operator had placed into position using a container stacker vehicle. It was during one of these manoeuvres that the employee was fatally crushed between two containers.
During the inquest in January 2019, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) gave evidence outlining a number of safety concerns including poor communication between forklift drivers and pluggers and safety training for staff. The court heard how the employee who was fatally crushed, and the forklift operator had worked together in previous shifts that week, but the pair had not used radios to communicate. The forklift operator admitted that there were safety failings but also explained that the shift was being worked ‘as it always has been’.
A HSE inspection found that the company routinely failed to provide adequate supervision of operatives and drivers working on the night shift to ensure safe systems of work were followed. This included failure to use safe walkways to segregate pedestrians from vehicles and the safe operation of container stackers by driving with shipping containers in the raised position to allow visibility.
Portico Shipping pleaded guilty to breaching section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act. The company were fined £200,000 and ordered to pay costs of £15,631.
Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector Rebecca Lumb said:
“Safe systems of work should be in place on sites with moving vehicles to prevent pedestrians coming into contact with traffic or moving machinery. When moving containers by container stacker, the load should be transported as low as possible whilst maintaining full line of sight.
“Supervisors must be given the necessary instruction and training to implement the safe systems of work and manage hazards during operation processes.
“This tragic incident was entirely preventable had the correct safety management procedures and supervision been in place at the site.”
This case highlights the importance of adhering to safe systems of work at all times. A lack of management during the night shift may have resulted in employees taking a relaxed approach to the company’s safe systems of work procedures, putting themselves and the organisation at risk.
If you are an employer and have any concerns in this regard, or have any other health and safety issues, please contact us on 01942 727200 or by email at email@example.com and speak to one of our Health & Safety Consultants for an initial consultation without charge or obligation.