Covers fined £120,000 after man’s ‘life-changing injuries’

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A firm has been fined for a ‘serious breach of health and safety law’ after a man was left with ‘life-changing injuries’, Chichester District Council (CDC) said.

Covers Builders Merchants in Quarry Lane, Chichester, has been fined £120,000 after a fork life truck crushed the hand of Robert Gassor, leaving him needing to have parts of three fingers amputated, CDC said.

According to the council, Mr Gassor, 37, from Oxfordshire, was delivering timber to the site on March 18, 2016.

The timber was on top of a series of steel metal posts acting as bearers.

After the timber had been unloaded by a fork lift truck, Mr Gassor got out of his cab and started to stow the bearers away under the lorry.

While he was doing this, the fork lift truck returned and its Cover’s driver passed over paperwork.

Mr Gassor then returned to stowing the bearers. As the fork lift truck pulled away, its rear swung out and crushed Mr Gassor’s hand against a part-stowed bearer.

Mr Gassor was rushed to St Richard’s Hospital for emergency treatment and subsequently had parts of three fingers amputated, the council said.

The accident was investigated by CDC’s Environmental Health officers who found there had been a breach of the Health and Safety at Work Act.

During a hearing on March 29, Brighton Magistrates’ Court heard that Covers did not ensure the safety of pedestrians on site, CDC said.

Other visiting drivers reported having experienced similar incidents of fork lift drivers driving up to hand them paperwork while they were pedestrians on the site.

Covers pleaded guilty to a breach of Section 3 of The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and was fined £120,000 and ordered to pay costs of more than £6,000, plus a victim surcharge.

According to CDC, the judge said: “The accident was tragic for Mr Gassor. The pain must have been unbearable, and he is still suffering enduring pain.

“It is accepted that prior to the accident, the company had a good health and safety record. “It would appear that the company have done everything that they can after the accident to improve safety.

“The company should be lauded for its response.”

According to CDC, Mr Gassor has lost his job and is no longer able to carry on as a lorry driver.

Covers has fully reviewed its safety procedures, according to CDC, which strongly advised other firms to do the same.

Louise Rudziak, head of housing and environment services at Chichester District Council, said: “Covers is a large and well respected local company and as the judge said, had a good health and safety record before this incident.

“However, this was a preventable accident and could have been avoided if fork lift truck movements near pedestrians had been restricted.

“Unfortunately this incident has led to life changing injuries for Mr Gassor, he has lost his job and is no longer able to work as a lorry driver.

“Covers have cooperated fully with the district council’s investigation and we acknowledge that lessons have been learned.

“The company has fully reviewed its safety procedures regarding fork lift truck movements and a wide range of improvements have been introduced.

“I would urge all companies in the district to review their procedures regarding the operation of fork lift trucks.”

Rupert Green, chairman at Covers Timber & Builders Merchants, said: “We extend our heartfelt sympathies to Mr Gassor and his family for the injury he has suffered as a result of the incident.

“We confirm that Covers has pleaded guilty for breaching health and safety regulations at the Quarry Lane site on March 18, 2016 and is fully prepared to face the related consequences.

“Covers is committed to the health and safety of all our staff, customers and other site visitors and we would like to reassure them that we maintain stringent and comprehensive health and safety policies and training schedules, which are regularly updated.

“Following the incident involving Mr Gassor we have carried out a thorough internal investigation and review of all our policies and procedures and implemented additional preventative measures at all our depots.

“These include ensuring visiting drivers are kept in a holding area at the depot whilst forklift trucks are in operation and not allowing them to breach this area until the forklift has been safely stopped.”

Advice is also available from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) at www.hse.gov.uk

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