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Firm fined £300k after woman's leg is crushed by fork lift

By Carl Jackson | Stone | News | Published:

A company has been fined £300,000 after a woman had her leg crushed by a fork lift truck.

The forklift at the warehouse.

Debra Thorpe, aged 58, was returning from the toilets when she was struck by the vehicle at Owlett-Jaton's warehouse at Stone Business Park.

The long-serving employee who has been there since 2004 and is a team leader, was airlifted to hospital where she spent four weeks requiring 13 operations on her leg.

She had to have a metal plate installed, have skin grafts and receive therapy for post-traumatic stress disorder while being left permanently disabled.

Stafford Borough Council subsequently prosecuted parent company Hexstone Ltd following the incident on September 28 last year.

At Newcastle-under-Lyme Magistrates Court the company admitted to breaches of the Health and Safety at Work Act.

They were fined £300,000 whilst also had to pay £7,424 in costs and a victim surcharge of £120.

Prosecutor Tony Watkin said: "It is plainly the case that the accident was caused by a failure to properly assess the risks posed of the use of fork lift trucks in areas where pedestrians were likely to be and to take proper measures to guard against accidents of precisely the kind that was caused to Ms Thorpe.

"Her accident was entirely foreseeable and entirely preventable."

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Since the accident dedicated walkways have been newly painted on the warehouse floor, a new crossing has been installed, a 'caution' tape barrier system has been introduced and shelving has been re-organised to provide better visibility.

Ms Thorpe had remained on full pay since the incident and is hoping to make a phased return to the business, the court heard.

Christian Du Cann, defending, said: "There was a system but it was not rigorous enough.

"The effect on Ms Thorpe, a well respected, well established employee, is bitterly regrettable."

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District Judge McGarva said: "The measures required are recognised standards in the industry. They failed to put in place those recognised measures."

Councillor Frank Finlay, the authority's environment and health boss, added: "A woman suffered horrible injuries as a result of failings in safety procedures at this warehouse.

"One of our top priorities is the wellbeing of people in our borough so I hope the size of this fine sends a warning to all businesses that the health and safety of their employees at work is paramount."

Owlett-Jaton which supplies fasteners, fixings and hardware products to the distributor and merchant trade employs around 300 people and operates 24 hours a day at the warehouse in Opal Way.

Carl Jackson

By Carl Jackson
Reporter - @cjackson_star

Senior reporter for Staffordshire and Walsall.

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