Yorkshire trailer firm prosecuted over forklift driver’s death

A worker died when a six-meter steel machine landed on top of him after it was dislodged from overhead brackets at a factory in East Yorkshire.

Ronald Wood, 59, from Holme-on-Spalding-Moor, was struck on the head by the steel vacuum lifter, which weighed two-thirds of a tonne, when it was knocked from its mountings by a trailer being towed out of the Montracon factory.

The scene of the fatal incident at Montracon, East Yorkshire
A Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation following the fatal incident exposed serious safety failings at the company’s premises on Holme Road in Market Weighton.

Hull Crown Court heard that Mr Wood, a driver and long-standing employee of Montracon, was standing underneath the steel lifter with a fellow worker as a large trailer, which was being towed out of the factory, hit the brackets holding the machine in place. The impact knocked it loose and it fell more than three and a half metres – landing on top of Mr Wood. His colleague escaped with only a minor injury.

Mr Wood, who was a grandfather, never regained consciousness and died in hospital the same day.

Montracon Ltd., registered at Carr Hill, Doncaster, South Yorkshire, pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing to two breaches of Health and Safety legislation. It was fined a total of £100,000 and ordered to pay £33,030 in costs.

Inspector Steven Kay, who carried out HSE’s investigation, said after the hearing:

“There were obvious failures in basic safety precautions, sadly leading to an unnecessary death and the tragic bereavement of a family.

“If Montracon had a suitable plan to control the movement of trailers in the workshop area, then they would have realised it was not safe to manoeuvre a trailer past a heavy piece of equipment that could be dislodged. But it failed to consider the risks or take basic and inexpensive precautions relating to storing heavy equipment at height.

“Work changes had also taken place in the factory which should have led the firm to re-think the risks, but it did not. Whenever work activity changes, then risks must be reassessed.

“Montracon also failed to follow up several minor incidents which, had they been investigated, could have led to action to prevent this tragedy. All employers need to have a system to record near misses and investigate them. The resulting information could prevent loss of life.”

In a statement to the court on behalf of Mr Wood’s family, his daughter Emma Wood said:

Mr. Ronald Wood
Mr. Ronald Wood

“It is so difficult to put into words the devastation caused to our family by Dad’s death. It was traumatic beyond belief and it still is…like a horrendous nightmare. We are all in total disbelief with what has happened and completely lost without him.

“To many he was a friend and work colleague – to us he was a husband, dad, granddad and great-granddad who we miss dearly every day.”

There were five deaths and more than 550 major injuries in the manufacturing sector in Yorkshire and the Humber according to the latest 2020/11 HSE statistics. A further 1,900 less severe injuries were recorded.

Notes:

1. The Health and Safety Executive is Britain’s national regulator for workplace health and safety. It aims to prevent death, injury and ill health. It does so through research, information and advice, promoting training, new or revised regulations and codes of practice, and working with local authority partners by inspection, investigation and enforcement. www.hse.gov.uk

2. Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 states: “It shall be the duty of every employer to ensure, so far as reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of their employees.”

3. Regulation 3(1) of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 states: “states, every employer shall make a suitable and sufficient assessment of the risks to the health and safety of his employees to which they are exposed whilst they are at work.

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