Vion fined £100,000 over forklift death

By Graham Holter

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags West lothian

Vion fined £100,000 over forklift death
Vion Food Scotland has been fined £100,000 following the death of a worker who was crushed by a badly loaded forklift truck.

George Hardie, 60, had been crossing a yard at the Hall’s meat processing factory in Broxburn, West Lothian, when the vehicle struck him. Fire crews freed him but paramedics found no signs of life and he was pronounced dead in hospital.

Livingston Sheriff Court heard that two large containers that were being moved by the forklift obscured the driver’s vision.

HSE enquiry

A Health & Safety Executive (HSE) investigation found that Vion Food Scotland had not properly assessed the risks of moving the containers around the yard or made arrangements to make sure the containers were moved in a safe way.

The investigation also found the company did not have a safe traffic management system or adequate supervision in place to keep pedestrians away from vehicles.

HSE inspector Peter Dodd said: "If Vion Food had taken simple steps to keep their employees safe, Mr Hardie would still be alive today.

"Forklifts were being moved around the yard with loads that meant the drivers could not clearly see where they were going. At the same time, employees were walking through the same yard, with no separation between them and the traffic, and no more protection than a high visibility jacket.

"The company should have taken steps to make sure the containers were being moved in a safe way, and managed the traffic in the yard so that people and vehicles were not sharing the same space."

Serious regulation breach

The company admitted breaking Section 2 of the Health & Safety at Work Act 1974 and was fined £100,000.

Sheriff Donald Ferguson said: "I regard this as a serious breach, probably towards the upper end of the scale. In my view the company's failings in this case merit a very significant fine."

Mr Hardie had worked at the factory for 16 years and was a team leader in the goods inward department.

He was described by Vion defence advocate Gavin Anderson as a very able, experienced and dedicated employee who was held in high regard.

Anderson added: "I take this opportunity to express publicly that which has already been expressed privately to the Hardie family, namely the very deep regret which all involved in the running of the company feel about the incident which occurred.

“The company accepts that it was its responsibility to ensure appropriate supervision was given and it's accepted that the company fell short in that regard."

A plaque in memory of Mr Hardie has been installed in the factory reception and colleagues observe a minute’s silence on the anniversary of his death, which happened in June 2009.

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