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Fatal telehandler accident exposes management failings

07 December 2021

REACH FORKLIFT truck owner did not carry out adequate maintenance or regular thorough examinations, leading to a fatal accident.

The owners of a fencing company in Bristol have been fined £35,000 following a successful prosecution by the HSE. The case, which involved a telehandler, resulted in the death of an employee.

The HSE identified serious failures on the part of the company’s management stating, “This incident could so easily have been avoided by simply ensuring that the vehicle in question had been properly maintained and thoroughly examined.”

In the incident a telehandler was being used to move a load when it tipped over and knocked stacked timber onto an employee causing fatal crush injuries. The resulting HSE investigation found that the telehandler’s safety device, designed to stop loads being lifted to unsafe heights, was faulty and had not worked for a considerable time. Neither the fencing company nor the site owner had ensured that the truck received regular thorough examinations or adequate maintenance – either of which would have highlighted the problem, both of which are necessary responsibilities of equipment owners.

“This is a tragic example of an employer either being unaware of, or simply failing to meet their responsibilities with regard to the safe operation of their materials handling equipment and the wellbeing of their workforce,” said Geoff Martin, chairman of CFTS, the industry’s accrediting body for the provision of Thorough Examinations.

Equipment owners have two distinct areas of responsibility:
1)    Ensuring the equipment is regularly serviced in line with manufacturers’ guidelines.
2)    Ensuring that equipment undergoes a Thorough Examination, meeting the requirements of both the Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations (LOLER) and the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations (PUWER).

“It’s important that owners and operators of equipment understand that the two are entirely separate,” said Martin. “A service is not a Thorough Examination, just as a car’s service is quite different from an MOT. One is maintenance, the other a mandatory inspection. As can be seen in this and far too many similar cases, skipping either can have deadly and profound consequences.

“When it comes to materials handling equipment, the frequency of a Thorough Examination is different from that of a car’s MOT in that the first examination is required at the end of the first year in service (rather than three years, in the case of a car). What’s more, because of the complexity of the equipment and the potential threat it poses, examinations may need to be carried out more frequently than every 12 months, depending on the application.

“If anyone is in any doubt about what a Thorough Examination should cover, when it is due or where to find an independently accredited examiner they will find all the answers by visiting the CFTS website or by contacting any one of our 600 inspection providers.”