A west yorkshire textile firm has been ordered to pay more than £115,000 in fines and costs for safety breaches, which lead to death of a worker being crushed and killed by a falling stack of rag bales.
A pallet truck operator James Welka aged 61, died in hospital just hours after the incident at the warehouse in Castle Bank Mills, Wakefield. James was in the warehouse making a call to a supervisor when the incident happened, a near by colleague driving a forklift was placing rag bales which unbalanced the bales near James causing them to toppled on top on him crushing him.
He was rushed to hospital but was pronounced dead later that day from fatal injuries and internal bleeding. Mr Welka was apparently struck by 300 kg of rags when the column collapsed, doctors presumed that James had suffered with suffocation which later caused brain damage and also lead to his death.
The company has been sentenced for a serious breach of safety, they pleaded guilty at Leeds Crown Court in the proceedings brought by the health and safety executive. The court was told that the deceased was an experienced forklift operator who was on the phone to his supervisor when the incident happened. HSE had found that the company had stack the the rag bales unsafely, using vertical columns, which were inherently unstable, rather than using tiered stacking. The company had failed to consider the risks posed by the unstable columns to employees walking around the warehouse and they also failed to put in effective measures in place to control the pedestrian activities around the warehouse whilst forklifts are in operation.
The company was fined £100,000 and ordered to pay the full costs for £15,839 for a breach of sector of the health and safety at work etc Act 1974.