Royal Mail have been Fined £50,000 plus £10,400 Costs at Medway Magistrates Court for Health and Safety breaches after bones in a member’s foot were crushed by a 4 Ton High Reach Fork Lift Truck at the Rochester Walk Bundling Centre in Kent in March 2014. The trial took place last Thursday 19 May 2016.
The accident occurred after the member, who was working the late shift at the WBC had been allowed to work in a mandatory PPE area without wearing standard Royal Mail protective steel toe caped safety footwear. The footwear had been ordered but hadn't been received after a mix up with the order.
He had just pushed a loaded York Container of Door to Door items into position in the despatch area and as he turned away to return to the processing floor, a high reach, fork lift truck, passing close by ran over his foot, crushing bones in his toes. He was rushed to Medway Maritime Hospital for emergency treatment and has still not fully recovered from his injuries.
An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) into the incident which occurred on 7th March 2014 found that workplace transport at the Royal Mail Walk Bundling Centre was not well organised and Royal Mail had failed to ensure that pedestrians and vehicles could circulate safely as they both operated in the same areas without segregation and it was an accident waiting to happen!
The HSE concluded that Better organisation of the workplace transport within the Walk Bundling Centre warehouse would have prevented this accident from happening.
Royal Mail Group Ltd pleaded guilty to breaching Regulations 17(1) of the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992, and Regulation 3(1) of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999. They were fined £50,000 and ordered to pay costs of £10,406.
The Union's Lawyers successfully settled a personal injury claim for damages on the member's behalf.
Writing in his letter to branches (LTB325/16) CWU National Health and Safety Officer Dave Joyce said:
"It is important that all employers take Health and Safety seriously and ensure that risks in the workplace are effectively controlled and managed. Royal Mail was prosecuted because of the serious nature of the injuries to our member.
This is a damning example of what can happen when managers fail to manage and monitor the health and safety of the workforce through careful attention to law and the company’s own health and safety standards and rules. It's important to be proactive about health and safety and that didn't happen in this case. All accidents can be avoided if the risks are properly assessed and managed.
In this case there was a failure to comply with the company’s general duty to provide a safe place and safe system of work and when members are likely to come into contact with workplace transport such as very heavy fork lift trucks. Careful assessment and management of the risks are required along with a separation of pedestrian and vehicular traffic around the site.
Every year in the UK, there are 50 Deaths and 5000 Injury Accidents involving workplace transport. The main causes of injury are people falling off vehicles, or being struck or crushed by them, as in this case.
Health and Safety Executive (HSE) statistics show that forklift truck accidents are the highest cause of Workplace Transport Injuries in the UK. In fact they account for 25% of the overall number of these types of accidents at work – more than HGV’s and cars combined.
That's why HSE consider this to be a priority area for attention and why Royal Mail needs to smarten up their act.
I'm pleased to say that since the accident Royal Mail has been working with the CWU Area Safety Rep and Workplace Safety Rep to make real improvements at the site and that's fully acknowledged and welcomed. Going forward, that needs to be maintained and continually improved. This accident could have resulted in a far worse outcome."
Applicable Health and Safety Law:
Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992
Regulation 17: 'Organisation etc., of traffic routes' (1) Every workplace shall be organised in such a way that pedestrians and vehicles can circulate in a safe manner.
Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999
Regulation 3: 'Risk assessment' (1) Every employer shall make a suitable and sufficient assessment of; (a) the risks to the health and safety of his employees to which they are exposed whilst they are at work; and (b) the risks to the health and safety of persons not in his employment arising out of or in connection with the conduct by him of his undertaking.