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Housebuilder and plant operator fined after forklift crushes three tilers

A housebuilder and plant operator have been fined £14,500 after a site accident in Banbury left one man dead and two severely injured in January 2008.

The incident saw three men crushed when a forklift truck tipped over onto the car they were waiting in.

Ceramic tillers Michael Whateley, brother Robert Whateley and Paul Keen, all from Northampton, were waiting in the car for a building plot to be unlocked on the site.

Banbury based Keith Payne was undertaking checks of a telehandler when the truck tipped over and the forks landed on the car, crushing its roof. Michael Whateley died from his injuries, while brother Robert suffered fractures to the spine and a brain injury.

Mr Keen suffered neck and spinal injuries, a broken ankle, broken ribs and a fractured breastbone.

At the time of the incident, Uxbridge based house builder Linden Limited was the principal contractor on the site and Mr Payne worked as a self-employed construction plant operator.

The Health and Safety Executive investigation showed the incident was preventable if Mr Payne had followed the operating instructions in the machinery manual and ensured the telehandler was being operated on firm level ground.

Instead, while on unsuitable ground he extended the boom of the machine to its limits while the telehandler was not suitably positioned.

The hearing also found Linden Limited had failed to ensure the equipment was maintained properly and tyre pressures were found to be lower than recommended.

Mr Payne was found guilty of breaching section 7 of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 and was fined £7,000. Linden Limited pleaded guilty to regulation 5 of the Provision and Use of Work equipment Regulations 1998.

The company was fined £7,500 and ordered to pay costs of £25,000.

HSE inspector James Powell said:  “This was a horrific accident that was totally avoidable. Construction sites have inherent risks, and even rough-terrain lift trucks have strict operational limits that need to be observed. With competent operation and suitable maintenance, tragedies like this should not happen.

“Lives have been destroyed here and today’s sentencing must serve to remind all employers and employees of their duties and responsibilities while using this type of machinery.”

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