Firm fined after driver was injured

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A BARLBOROUGH-BASED company has been ordered to pay over £28,800 in fines and legal costs after one of its fork lift truck drivers broke his back falling from a collapsed loading ramp.

Vesuvius UK Ltd, of Midland Way, admitted during a Chesterfield magistrates’ court hearing on January 5 that it failed to ensure the employee was not exposed to safety risks and that it failed to make safety risk assessments.

The court heard how Andrew Baxter, 50, of Eckington, had been unable to safely secure a ramp to a lorry and as he unloaded a delivery the ramp collapsed, his fork lift truck fell and he suffered a fractured back and a crushed disc.

Insp Fiona Coffey, of the Health and Safety Executive which brought the case, said: “The hooking point chosen by Andrew Baxter was not the natural one and two HGV drivers stated that securing the ramp at a higher point would have allowed more security but it was not possible to attach it.

“Andrew Baxter secured the ramp as best as he could and began unloading and the fork lift truck and the ramp fell from the lorry.”

Miss Coffey explained clay refractories manufacturer Vesuvius failed to provide safer plant, that ramps should have undergone daily checks and it was common knowledge the ramp could move.

She told the court wheel chocks were not used if connecting chains were insufficient and the company failed to provide training and supervision.

Miss Coffey said Vesuvius should have considered whether the risk could have been avoided, should have used different ramps and wheel chocks and that the accident was foreseeable.

Rodney Wilson, representing Vesuvius, said: “Vesuvius is very sorry these offences have been committed and apologises to Mr Baxter for the injuries he suffered. Health and safety is something the company takes seriously.”

Mr Wilson argued Vesuvius had a previously unblemished safety record and the old ramps have been replaced with new ones with legs and checks have been introduced.

He explained Mr Baxter, who was injured at the company’s Sheepbridge Works’ site, in Chesterfield, in February, 2010, has returned to work on light duties and his compensation claim is being dealt with and £6,000 of interim payments have been made.

Mr Summer, chairman of the magistrates’ bench, said: “Life changing injuries have been caused. The company fell some way short of what was reasonable and practicable. The risk was foreseeable and the company failed to assess and control mobile ramps.”

Vesuvius pleaded guilty to both offences and was fined £24,000 and ordered to pay legal costs of £4,815.75 with a £15 surcharge.

Following the hearing, Miss Coffey added: “We hope this sends a warning to companies to risk assess and control work places because transport accidents are serious and involve significant injuries.”