How many pallets does it take to make a health and safety breach?

Lancaster Magistrates' Courthouse.
Lancaster Magistrates' Courthouse.

Two Morecambe industrial estate managers who strapped 15 wooden pallets to a forklift truck in order to fix a street light have been fined £8,000 each.

Jonathan Shaw and Stephen Fawcett pleaded guilty to breaches of health and safety legislation at a hearing at Lancaster Magistrates Court on Monday January 12.

Two men were fined for using pallets to fix a light

Two men were fined for using pallets to fix a light

A passer by captured the moments after the two men had attached the 15 wooden pallets to a forklift truck to reach the nine metre high light on Vickers Industrial Estate, in Vickers Way, off Mellishaw Lane. (see pic, p1)

On the top of the pallets was a metal cage, specifically designed to be attached to the truck, in which Fawcett was standing.

The court heard that Fawcett, 69, of Newby Court in Newby, had no harness or safety equipment to prevent him from falling and there were also no preventative measures in place on the ground to stop people from coming within dangerous distance of the machinery.

The 15 timber pallets and cage were held together by one ratchet-tensioned webbing strap attached around the width of the pallets.

There was no strap tying together the pallets and cage from front to back, nor were the pallets positively locked to the forklift truck.

Lancaster City Council said that the arrangement was at best “precarious” and at worst “reckless”, being potentially dangerous to anyone using it or anyone near it.

Shaw, 44, of Bailrigg Lane in Lancaster, was at the base of the forklift truck looking up and was in immediate danger if the platform had collapsed, the court heard.

After considering the potential danger of the incident, and that Fawcett had previously been given health and safety advice and been warned about the dangers of working from height, the council decided to prosecute them both under sections 3(2) and 33(1)(a) of the Health & Safety at Work etc Act 1974.

At the hearing, both men pleaded guilty to the offences and were each fined £8,000 fine plus a victim surcharge of £120, together with costs of £1,681.50.

Coun Karen Leytham, Cabinet member with responsibility for environmental health, said: “Falls from height are the biggest cause of workplace deaths and it is crucial that work is properly planned, appropriately supervised and that sufficient measures are put in place to protect both staff and the public.

“The council’s investigation revealed serious and wilful failures to adequately protect persons from serious risk of injury and potential loss of life.”

Businesses located on Vickers Industrial Estate include Rhino Scaffolding, Furniture Matters, LPC Furniture, and GVS Filter Technology.