Fatal Unloading Incident Brings Heavy Fine

A distribution company will pay $318,000 plus $27,000 in costs after pleading guilty in a British courtroom. Regular inspections of the truck involved in the case might have prevented the death, HSE's inspector said.

A distribution company has been found guilty of violating Section 3(1) of Britain's Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 in connection with a fatal unloading accident in April 2008. Gregory Distribution Ltd pleaded guilty to the charge in court and was fined $318,000, plus $27,000 in costs, on Aug. 4 in connection with the death of a vineyard owner who was helping the distributor's driver unload a pallet of empty wine bottles from a truck when the load fell onto him from the truck's tail lift. George Musgrave suffered fatal head and chest injuries, the Health and Safety Executive reported.

Musgrave owned the Polmassick Vineyard. "This tragic accident highlights the dangers involved in unloading large and heavy loads using a tail lift. Employers should ensure that employees are given the right equipment, information, instruction, and training to allow them to unload loads safely," said Simon Jones, the HSE inspector in the case. "Where employers use the services of agency staff, they should ensure that those agency staff are aware of the systems of work in place and have the skills and training to undertake the required tasks.

HSE says tail lifts should be examined by a competent person at least every two months to confirm they are safe to operate. "If these simple measures had been taken, then this accident would not have happened, and Mr. Musgrave would not have died in these tragic circumstances," Jones said.

Section 3(1) of the act says as far as reasonably practical, employers should not expose people not in their employment to a risk to their safety.

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