Tangerine Confectionery to pay £129k after forklift injury

By Michael Stones contact

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Tangerine confectionery, Pallet

Tangerine Confectionery Ltd was fined £120,000 and ordered to pay £9,538 in prosecution costs
Tangerine Confectionery Ltd was fined £120,000 and ordered to pay £9,538 in prosecution costs
Blackpool-based sweet manufacturer Tangerine Confectionery has been ordered to pay more than £129,000 after the fork of a forklift truck pierced a worker’s foot.

The accident at the firm’s Vicarage Lane site on September 19 2012 was one of three collisions in the same location within three months, revealed an investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

The injured worker, Kevin Lowe, aged 48, suffered life-changing injuries after the fork pierced his foot, entering the instep and exiting the bridge, breaking every bone in its path. Lowe is now able to walk only short distances with the use of a stick.

Preston Crown Court heard how the worker from Blackpool had been driving a ride-on pallet truck in a warehouse at the plant. The vehicle was manoeuvring close to the entrance because of a lack of space inside.

Collision with another forklift

The accident happened during a collision with another forklift truck when its operator drove through the plastic strip curtains hanging over the entrance.

Surgeons at Blackpool Victoria Hospital first thought they would have to amputate the worker’s foot but managed to save it by using large screws. Lowe spent nine days in hospital and was unable to return to work or to drive.

Plastic curtains over the entrance were designed to keep out insects and birds, but obscured the view of workers going into the warehouse, the court was told.

Also, the area was overcrowded with pallets from two other warehouses while maintenance work was being carried out. That restricted drivers’ manoeuvring space and increased the flow of traffic.

The injured worker had been involved in a collision at the same entrance a few weeks earlier, suffering minor bruising, according to an HSE investigation. That incident was followed by another collision a few days later. The drivers involved attributed all three accidents to restricted vision through the curtains. The firm later removed the curtains and changed its systems so vehicles and pedestrians can move safely around the site.

‘A horrific injury’

After the hearing, HSE inspector Michael Mullen said: “Mr Lowe has suffered a horrific injury that will affect him for life because Tangerine Confectionery failed to implement effective traffic management at its Vicarage Lane warehouse.

“The company introduced physical hazards onto route ways without assessing their effects, and the result can best be described as chaotic. The fact that there were three collisions in just three months in the same spot shows this wasn’t just a one off incident but something that was almost inevitable.”

Mullen noted employees had raised concerns about restricted vision when driving through the plastic curtains and the overcrowding in the area, but the management team ignored these concerns.

“The company has since made changes to the layout of the warehouse and systems of work including the installation of proximity alarms, clearly marked traffic routes, better supervision and a new dispatch system. If these had been in place at the time of the incident then the injuries suffered by Mr Lowe could have been avoided,”​ he added.

Tangerine Confectionery Ltd was fined £120,000 and ordered to pay £9,538 in prosecution costs after pleading guilty to a breach of the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992.

A spokesman for Tangerine Confectionery Limited said the firm deeply regretted the accident and its consequences and added that the firm had fully cooperated with the HSE throughout its investigation and the subsequent proceedings.

“Tangerine Confectionery Limited is committed to ensuring the health and safety of all our employees, customers and visitors as a top priority across the business,”​ said the spokesman. “We continually invest considerable resource to ensure that the health and safety policies in place are both robust and fit for purpose.

“As recognised today at the hearing, immediate action was taken after the incident with the aim of preventing future instances occurring on any of our sites.” 

HSE advice on preventing injuries caused by workplace vehicles is available here​.

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