A Stonehaven animal feed company has been fined £240,000 after a lorry driver was crushed to death when a two-tonne, fully-loaded grain bin fell onto him from a forklift truck.
David Leslie, 49, of Balmedie, worked for a feed services firm and was picking up a load from East Coast Viners Grain LLP’s site in Drumlithie, Stonehaven, when the incident happened on March 18, 2013.
Aberdeen Sheriff Court heard on Friday (August 15) that Leslie was helping with the loading operation.
He was standing near the base of the grain elevator, which carries the animal feed up and drops it into a bulk transporter, and was ready to pull the lever in the grain bin to release the feed once it was in position.
The forklift driver picked up the grain bin, which weighed around 600kg and held 1.5 tonnes of feed, and raised the forks to about five and a half feet to allow better visibility as he moved forwards.
However, the bin started to move on the forks and he shouted a warning, but Leslie was in front of the forklift when the bin fell off the forks and struck him.
Leslie died after suffering crush injuries to his head, neck and chest.
An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) revealed East Coast Viners Grain LLP did not have in place a safe system of work for the task and operators were left to carry it out in any way they saw fit.
The company had assumed the forklift training they had received from an external provider would cover safe working.
Although the company’s site rules required visiting drivers to keep away from the loading operation until advised by the forklift driver, this was not communicated to employees or drivers.
As a result, employees regularly allowed visiting drivers to help loading by pulling the grain bin lever to release the feed. Supervisors were on site and aware that this was happening.
HSE also found that despite previous incidents of grain bins slipping from the forks of the trucks, no mechanism or device to secure them had been installed.
There was also poor visibility in the loading area where the forklifts were operating; failures in work systems and in training for employees.
Since the incident the company has stopped using metal grain bins and now only uses cloth bags. It has updated its risk assessments and work procedures and now prevents visiting drivers from assisting in lifting operations. Visiting drivers are also asked to sign that they have read the site rules.
The court heard the company had been fined £4,000 in April 2011 for a breach of Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 following an incident in which a mill operative suffered head injuries when he fell from an excavator bucket in December 2009.
East Coast Viners Grain LLP, of Broadwood, Drumlithie, Stonehaven, Aberdeenshire, was fined £240,000 after pleading guilty to breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.
Following the case, HSE Principal Inspector Niall Miller, said: “East Coast Viners Grain LLP’s failure to act to make sure its employees and visiting drivers were adequately protected during loading operations, has led to the tragic death of Mr Leslie, which could have been so easily prevented.
“The issues with unsecured loads on forklift trucks and the dangers of inadequate segregation of vehicles and people are well-known in all relevant industries.
“Around a quarter of all workplace transport incidents involve forklift trucks, with 50% of these happening because someone is hit either by the vehicle or a falling load.
“It was entirely foreseeable that there was a risk of death or serious injury if the grain bin fell from the forklift truck, particularly as the company was aware of previous incidents of loads falling.”