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Handle with care. Forklift deaths land firms with £1m fines.

Two visiting delivery drivers have died in avoidable forklift truck accidents, resulting in seven figure fines for a major plastic piping company and a large kitchen manufacturer.

Gareth Wilson, a driver for Mark Doel Transport, was standing in the yard at Glynwed Pipe Systems Ltd's site in Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire when he was hit by a forklift carrying large coils suspended from the forks. The cause of death was "multiple traumatic injuries".

Richard Brown had been delivering worktops to the Howdens Joinery site in Workington, Cumbria when an overloaded forklift overbalanced and crushed him against his lorry. He died at the scene.

The HSE investigation found that Glynwed had failed to properly manage workplace transport in the yard area so that people and traffic could circulate safely. Their report added that "appropriate routes were not identified and therefore insufficient in number. A properly implemented Traffic Management Plan should have identified sufficient measures for the separation of vehicles and people including protected walkways, clear signage and barriers.”

At Cambridge Crown Court Glynwed Pipe Systems Ltd of St Peter’s Road, pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 2(1) and 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974. They were fined £1million and ordered to pay costs of £27,942.

At Carlisle Crown Court Howdens Joinery pleaded guilty to breaching the same regulations and were fined £1.2 million with costs of almost £34,000. The HSE investigation found that the forklift had been trying to lift a 2160 kg load, even though its maximum capacity was 1520 kg; a 42% overload.

The importance of constantly updated health and safety training and rigorously enforced systems is particularly emphasised by the Workington case. The court heard that Howdens had a proper system of risk assessment and training in place and an excellent safety record overall. Nevertheless, there had been four forklift overbalancing episodes at other Howdens depots in the same year, the last two in the same week as the fatal incident.