A forklift truck operator has been prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) after a teenager was injured during a routine lifting operation.
The 18-year-old, who wishes to remain anonymous, needed reconstructive surgery after suffering multiple fractures to his right shoulder, left ankle and left shin bone in the accident at a manufacturing company in Maidstone on June 25th 2013.
Forklift Truck Accident
Stephen Bellingham, an experienced forklift truck operator, was moving a 493 kg unit across the factory floor at his employer's site when he asked his 18-year-old colleague to hold the cargo in place on the forks of the forklift.
Mr Bellingham asked for the teenager's assistance because the load, a heater, began to become unstable and needed steadying, but because of the sheer weight of the unit, the young man was unable to keep it upright and it fell on top of him.
Normally in cases like this, the HSE will try and prosecute the employer, as they are often at fault for fostering an unsafe working environment, but in this case it was discovered that Mr Bellingham was acting independently.
For his part in the young man's work accident injuries, Mr Bellingham was fined £270 after pleading guilty to a single breach of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.
While this is a relatively low penalty, the magistrate in charge of sentencing took into consideration the fact that Mr Bellingham has been summarily dismissed for gross negligence because of the accident and was struggling financially.
The 49-year-old has since been unable to find alternative employment and has also found it hard to claim benefits as he was fired rather than made redundant.
After the hearing finished, HSE inspector Kevin Golding said, "This incident demonstrates all too clearly that a single poor decision, on this occasion asking an inexperienced colleague to stand in a dangerous position to steady a large, heavy and unstable load, can have devastating consequences.
"The young worker is fortunate to have regained full mobility, but he was unable to work for a considerable period.
"His ordeal should serve as a powerful reminder to all employees, particularly those in control of potentially dangerous machinery, to fully consider the consequences of their actions. Stephen Bellingham failed to do this."
Similar Forklift Truck Accident
A similar case in April saw a Blackpool-based sweet company taken to Court by the HSE after a worker's foot was pierced by the fork of a forklift truck.
Kevin Lowe, 48, suffered life-changing injuries in the accident at the Tangerine Confectionery factory in Lancashire after he was driven into by a colleague using the vehicle.
After being rushed to Blackpool Victoria Hospital, surgeons thought his foot would have to be amputated, but the limb was eventually saved through the use of large screws, although he has since been unable to return to work or drive.
In this case Tangerine Confectionery was fined £120,000 by the HSE after it was decided executives had failed to implement a proper traffic management system to avoid forklift truck accidents.
By Francesca Witney