It should have been a typical afternoon at work for a 55-year-old employee of the Corrugated Case Company Ltd. Just finishing up with lunch, he decided to hike back to his job site on Pilsley Road in Danesmoor, Chesterfield. Little did he know that a simple walk would end painfully.
The company yard — congested with abnormal traffic flow — wasn’t exactly organised. The mid-December work week had suffered some failed deliveries due to a recent strike of bad weather, and a lack of pedestrian crossing points didn’t make navigating through the rush of vehicles any safer for the worker. He likely figured that his high-visibility jacket would alert other drivers of his presence. Alas, no.
As the man approached the site, he noticed a heavy goods vehicle manoeuvring so that another vehicle could get by. He held fast to the kerb and waited for the HGV to reverse past him. Once clear, he stepped out in front of the truck — assuming it would continue its journey in reverse — and only had a matter of seconds before he realised that both he and the driver had made a massive mistake.
The lorry resumed a full-forward drive and plowed into the worker, dragging him underneath the vehicle. His pelvis, ribs and leg were fractured. His shoulder and lower spine were both severely damaged, and his head suffered a barrage of cuts.
Fortunately, his hi-vis jacket didn’t go to complete waste; a passerby on the main road caught eye of his high-visibility outfit and shouted for the lorry driver to stop advancing, after which the driver immediately halted his truck before it could deal further harm. The jacket might have saved his life after all.
While the results of the 2010 accident (post-traumatic epilepsy, breathing difficulties, mobility difficulties, and being put out of work for extensive time) were tragic for the victim in this case, others are forced to look upon the event with scrutiny. Why exactly did this accident happen? What measures could have been taken to prevent it? Who is responsible?
Health and Safety Executive inspector Fiona Coffey best sums up the answers when saying:
“On the day of the incident, the site was congested with unusually high levels of traffic yet there were no pedestrian crossing points, speed restrictions, mirrors or signage, or any other means of segregating pedestrians and vehicles.”
According to Coffey, the company was given verbal instruction on how to better control workplace transport six months prior to the accident. In spite of the company’s agreement to comply, the instructions were not followed.
“A Director and the Health and Safety Manager had agreed to [the instruction],” Coffey said. “As a result of the company’s failure to implement this guidance, their employee suffered painful and life-changing injuries.”
Magistrates would later fine the company £8,000 and order it to pay costs of £7,435.
This story is only the tip of the iceberg. HSE’s data on workplace injuries shows that 46 workers suffered a fatal injury involving workplace transport in 2010/11p. Roughly a quarter of fatal injuries to workers involved workplace transport, and a whopping 30% of fatal injuries to employees were attributed to it.
Such data can’t help but emphasise the importance of Vehicle Banksman training. At Didac Industrial Training, we offer an in-depth course on recognising hand/arm signals and procedures for directing drivers of any type of wheeled or tracked vehicle. The value of directing traffic — especially vehicles traveling in reverse — cannot be overestimated. Especially not for the victim in this case, whose injuries could have been prevented if a certified banksman was on site that day.