Stone based Owlett-Jaton has been ordered to pay more than £300,000 after a woman had her leg crushed by a fork lift truck at a warehouse in Stone
Team Leader Debra Thorpe was airlifted to hospital and has required 13 operations on her leg after being hit by the truck at the Owlett-Jaton warehouse on the Stone Business Park.
Sentencing the company, District Judge Jack McGarva, said it was a tragic case in which a longstanding employee suffered life changing injuries.
The Newcastle Under Lyme court was told that Ms Thorpe was returning on foot from the toilets on the warehouse floor to where she worked on the mezzanine floor when she was struck by the vehicle.
Tony Watkin, prosecuting for Stafford Borough Council, said she required a metal plate in her leg and skin grafts, received therapy for post-traumatic stress disorder and will be left with a permanent disability because of the accident.
“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.”
Hexstone Ltd – trading as Owlett-Jaton – admitted to breaches of the Health and Safety at Work Act last September. They were fined £300,000 and ordered to pay £7,424 costs with a victim surcharge of £120 when they appeared before the court yesterday (Monday).
The court heard the company employs around 300 people and describes itself as the largest supplier of fasteners, fixings and hardware products to the distributor and merchant trade in the UK. The warehouse in Opal Way, Stone is 250,000 sq metres and operates 24 hours a day.
Ms Thorpe, aged 58, had worked there since 2004 and spent four weeks in hospital following the accident.
The court was told since the incident dedicated walkways had been newly painted on the warehouse floor, a new crossing had been installed, a ‘caution’ tape barrier system had been introduced, and the shelving had been re-organised to provide better visibility.
Christian Du Cann, defending the company, said they had admitted the offence at the first opportunity and had co-operated fully with the investigation – and told the court following an inspection in 2005 they had been ‘commended’ for the safe system of work they had in place.
He said: “There was a system but it was not rigorous enough.”
The court heard Ms Thorpe had remained on full pay since the accident, was on the mend, and the company would be looking at a phased return to work for her.
Mr Du Cann added: “The effect on Ms Thorpe, a well respected, well established employee, is bitterly regrettable.”
He said the company “expressed sorrow” for her suffering.
District Judge McGarva said the company had not been cavalier in their approach and had since taken steps to remedy deficiencies that were found.
“The measures required are recognised standards in the industry. They failed to put in place those recognised measures.”
Following the case, Councillor Frank Finlay, Cabinet Member for Environment and Health, said:
“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.”