High Wycombe Magistrates’ Court heard how, on 23 November 2016, an agency driver was carrying out a delivery for Reason Transport UK Limited at Fraser Road, High Wycombe. The driver was delivering a pallet of stone tiles using a tail-lift and a manual pallet truck. He spent several minutes struggling to lift and manoeuvre the pallet onto the truck’s tail-lift. When he eventually succeeded in doing so, he lost control of the pallet, which fell onto him, causing him to suffer fatal crush injuries.
An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that the weight of the pallet was recorded as 1,200 kg but the actual weight of the pallet was in excess of 1,400 kg. The pallet was therefore in excess of the 1,000 kg weight limit set by the pallet network for tail-lift deliveries. The investigation also found that the driver had worked for the company for two weeks and had not received any training for the safe delivery of pallets using a tail-lift.
Reason Transport UK Limited, now in liquidation, pleaded guilty to breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and has been fined £5,000.
After the hearing, HSE inspector Stephen Faulkner said: “This was a tragic and wholly avoidable incident, caused by the failure of the host company to provide training to this agency worker on the safe delivery of pallets from a vehicle with a tail-lift.”
He added: “Transport companies should be aware of the importance of identifying and managing the risks involved with delivering heavy loads and the need to adequately train new staff before undertaking such deliveries.”
The death, which was widely reported at the time, promoted an HSE investigation into imposing a limit on pallet weight in 2017, but that found doing so “would not be sensible” owing to the difficulty of interpreting and enforcing the rules.
At the time, an HSE spokeswoman said: “There are a number of factors which can significantly increase the force required to move a loaded pallet, of which weight is just one. Depending on these other factors, very light pallets could require excessive force to move them, and very heavy pallets could be moved safely and easily. Any limit would need to cover the wide range of possible conditions and would be extremely low compared to current pallet weights used. That would have the effect of preventing a large proportion of potentially safe [manual] pallet movement and would severely affect the logistics industry, with little or no safety benefit.”
Some distribution operations and pallet networks set their own limits, and some have reportedly reduced the maximum weight in response to the accident.
The IRTE’s own best practice guide, ‘Preventing Falls and Falling Loads from Tail Lifts’, offers advice on load and personnel security, with sections on training, checks and management responsibilities (it does not specify weight limits): https://is.gd/oxihag.
After this article was first published, Reason Transport Ltd sent in the below statement:
“The fine announced relates to Oxfordshire-based Reason Transport UK Ltd, which ceased trading in 2017 due to issues with the viability and scale of the delivery areas within the Palletways network.
"This tragic accident was due to the industry wide issue of inaccurate labelling of pallet weights, leading to the handling of an overweight pallet.
"Our thoughts are with the driver’s family and we fully support industry wide efforts to ensure that pallet weights are limited and accurately reported throughout the delivery process to protect all drivers in the UK.”