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Warehouse prosecution highlights important safety issues

HSE InfoLine : 14 November, 2005  (New Product)
A serious injury to a young warehouse employee has prompted the Health and Safety Executive to emphasise a number of important safety issues to employers in the warehousing and commercial storage sectors. These include supervision of inexperienced workers, planning work at height and ensuring safety procedures are maintained outside normal working hours.
Tristan Arkless, a 22-year-old employee of Iron Mountain (UK) Ltd, received a crushed vertebra and fractured pelvis after he fell 3.5 metres from a temporary platform erected between two racking units in a warehouse at the company's premises in Silvertown, London, on Sunday 27 July 2003. Mr Arkless and three temporary workers were attempting to remove archive boxes from the higher shelves in the warehouse, with no effective measures to prevent the fall.

HSE Inspector John Crookes, who investigated the incident, said: 'This is an example of what can happen when work at height is not properly planned and when young, inexperienced workers are not supervised. It highlights the need for companies to make sure safety procedures are in place whenever their employees are at work, not just during normal hours.

'The company should have made a proper risk assessment prior to commencing the job and provided a system of work incorporating a safe means of access, such as a tower scaffold, an order picker or cherry picker, together with appropriate training tailored to the use of the equipment chosen. At no stage should employees have been required to climb the racking itself.

'The company should also have ensured that a competent supervisor was present on site, i.e. someone who could assess the risks and, unlike Mr Arkless and the temporary workers, recognise that working at a height of 3.5 metres on unsecured boards placed across an aisle between two racking units was unsafe and should not have been attempted.

On Wednesday 26 October 2005, Iron Mountain (UK) Ltd pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2(1) and 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 at the City of London Magistrates' Court. The company was fined 20,000 for each breach, the maximum penalty in a Magistrates' court. It was also ordered to pay 5,000 to the victim and court costs of 2,376.00.
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