08/07/2011

Fork Truck Accident Victim 'Brain Damaged'

Serious head injuries that left a factory worker with debilitating brain injury has seen the Co Tyrone food processor, Linden Foods heavily fined over an accident on its premises.

Lucas Da Costa, 42, who is originally from East Timor, was struck by falling pallets at the company's factory in Dungannon in February 2010.

This week, the company pleaded guilty to breaches of health and safety.

The victim was trying to lift a single pallet when pallets, which were stacked three-high behind that, fell on top of him.

The truck he was using did not have any overhead protection and they landed on him, leaving him with severe brain injuries to such an extent that he now lives in a nursing home and cannot communicate in any way or do things for himself.

The firm was fined a total of £25,000 plus £1,200 costs at Laganside Crown Court, after pleading guilty to breaches of health and safety legislation at an earlier hearing at Omagh Crown Court. The case was brought by the Health and Safety Executive for Northern Ireland (HSENI).

After the hearing Anne Cassidy, an inspector with the HSENI'S Major Investigation Team, said: "Companies must use lift trucks which have overhead protection where there is a possibility of items falling.

"Care must be taken when stacking goods to ensure the stacks are stable and suitably spaced so as to prevent accidents such as this one. A risk assessment must be carried out to identify these hazards and the most suitable means of controlling the risks."

The pallet truck Mr Da Costa had used had forks one metre long, but that the Euro pallet he was lifting was only 80cm deep so the forks "protruded out by 20cms and into the stack behind" adding that when he lifted it, they fell on him.

Mr Da Costa was rushed to hospital and then transferred to the Royal Victoria Hospital where he was treated for bleeding onto the brain, as well as multiple fractures to his skull and facial bones.

The lawyer said there were no aggravating features in the case but that in mitigation, there had been an admission of guilt by Linden Foods and a "prompt response" to what had happened.

Improvements

Linden Foods Ltd, with an address at the Granville Industrial Estate, Granville Road in Dungannon, pleaded guilty to two counts of health and safety breaches in that they failed to ensure, so far as was reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of all employees and failed to make a suitable and sufficient assessment of the risks to the health and safety to employees.

BBC NI has since reported that Linden Foods Ltd had spent more than £70,000 on improving health and safety practices, employing a health and safety officer and upgrading the pallet stacking system so that they're not stacked on top of each other.

The company had already admitted liability in civil proceedings, were still paying Mr Da Costa's wages to his wife and that his cousin, who also works for the company, is allowed to leave work to help out when required.

(BMcC/GK)

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