Belfast firm fined £20,000 after employee lost foot in workplace accident

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A Belfast-based company has been fined £20,000 for health and safety breaches following an incident involving pallets which led to an employee losing his foot.

McCaig Collim – which supplies and distributes heating and ventilation systems – was also ordered to pay £7,000 court costs after the firm admitted six charges arising from the incident.

Belfast Crown Court heard the company has “clearly learned its lesson” following the on-site incident which resulted in a “catastrophic injury” to an employee in his 50s.

The incident occurred on September 26, 2016 when a stack of pallets was being moved via a manually operated pallet truck.

These wooden pallets were larger than normal and were stacked about eight feet high when the employee, who was one of two men operating the pallet truck, noticed the stack was unsteady, and climbed up the stack to straighten it up.

The two employees then continued to manoeuvre the truck in a push-pull motion, when suddenly four pallets fell from the stack and hit one of the men.

A Crown prosecutor said that while it cannot be said exactly what caused this to occur, it was possible the top of the stack could have struck something else.

The injured employee was treated for a back injury and a much more serious wound to his lower leg. Due to pain that would not abate, it was seemed necessary to amputate the man’s leg below the knee in December 2018.

He remains an employee and is now seeking compensation via a civil case.

Officers from the Health and Safety Unit of Belfast City Council found a number of breaches at the company’s Dargan Industrial Estate premises, including no evidence of appropriate training being given to staff moving pallets, and insufficient risk assessments in that area.

It also emerged that the pallets being transported on this particular occasion were larger than was normally the case. This meant the forks on the pallet truck did not pass through the full length of the pallet, making the load less stable.

A lack of other precautionary measures – such as wrapping the stack of pallets in shrink wrap prior to movement – was also noted.

Judge David McFarland fined the company £20,000 and said that while there was a certain “foreseeability” for the potential for injury, there was also a “prompt acceptance” of responsibility.