Forklift truck driver killed following unsafe system of work

A food manufacturer’s failure to establish a safe system for loading trailers has cost it more than £162,000 after a forklift truck driver was killed at its Runcorn site.

Michael Moran died while using his forklift truck to load pallets containing tubs of mayonnaise onto a trailer outside AAK UK’s factory on the Astmoor Industrial Estate in April 2011.

An HSE investigation found that AAK had no risk assessments for its delivery or collection areas and forklift truck drivers regularly drove into a public road to load trailers.

HSE inspector Deborah Walker explained that the trailer Moran was loading was parked in the Goods Out area to the side of AAK’s building on Davy Road. “There was no pavement,” she noted, “but the Goods Out area was distinguished from the road by double yellow lines”.

Moran had loaded one side of the trailer and then had to move the forklift into the road to reach the other side. As he lifted the forks of the truck to load the last pallets, an HGV that had parked up alongside the trailer started to reverse. Moran shouted out and the lorry driver applied his brakes but it was too late and the forklift overturned.

Because the incident happened on a public road, the police investigated the actions of the lorry driver, but decided he did not have a case to answer.

“The lorry was delivering a load of bottle tops to the Goods In area”, said Walker. Davy Road is a cul-de-sac, she explained, and vehicles visiting the site with deliveries or to pick up loads of mayonnaise often reversed down the road to avoid having to turn around. “All vehicles going to the goods in area had to drive past the goods out area”, she said.

At the time of the incident, the gates to the Goods In area were closed, so the lorry driver had left his vehicle to show his paperwork to the guard. When he parked, the back of his lorry was slightly in front of the back of the trailer being loaded, coincidentally leaving a space for Moran to drive his forklift truck into, said Walker.

When the lorry driver returned from the Goods In gate, he started to reverse without realising Moran was behind him. “The police investigation found that it took the lorry seven seconds to reverse four metres”, said Walker, “so it was going very slowly” but the impact with the forklift was enough to make it topple.

The HSE investigation “revealed a chaotic and dangerous system,” said Walker. Despite having owned the site since 2006, AAK did not have a risk assessment for the Goods Out area. “There was a draft risk assessment for the Goods In area”, she said, “but it had not been finalised or distributed to workers, so was not implemented.”

Walker served an improvement notice requiring AAK to make arrangements for the proper “planning, organisation, control, monitoring and review” of vehicle loading.

The company initially appealed against the notice, but had complied with it by the time of the tribunal, said Walker. She revisited the site at the time of compliance and found the system of work was substantially improved.

AAK created a “no parking” zone alongside the Goods Out area by Davy Road, allowing space for forklift drivers to load trailers without going out into the road. The firm has also set up a booking in system for vehicles delivering to the factory. “It had also started a reversing assistant programme”, said Walker, “so when a vehicle needs to reverse, a member of warehouse staff comes out to guide it from a safe position behind a barrier, and stops people and vehicles from entering the area until the reversing is complete”.

On 15 May, a judge at Liverpool Crown Court fined the company £140,000 and ordered it to pay £22,657 costs after it admitted breaching Section 2(1)  of the Health and Safety at Work Act. AKK UK’s parent company is Swedish-Danish owned AarhusKarlshamn AB, which produces speciality vegetable oils and fats.