Confectionery company fined for failings that led to injury

A Coatbridge confectionery company has been fined £5000 for health and safety failings which led to the injury of an employee.

Lees of Scotland Limited, who make teacakes, snowballs, and meringues, pled guilty to a charge under health and safety legislation on 13 December 2022 at Airdrie Sheriff Court after misuse of a forklift truck led to injury.

The court heard that on 4 June 2019 at the company’s site in Coatbridge, North Lanarkshire, a delivery of two heavy wooden crates was made to the yard. The first contained a 1.680 tonnes piece of machinery. The second a 1.932 tonnes piece of machinery.

When the forklift driver attempted to remove the first crate from the lorry the back end of the forklift came off the ground. The maximum lifting capacity of the forklift was 1.6 tonnes.

The manager and one of the Directors of the company instructed several employees to climb on the back of the forklift to try and balance it out. The forklift driver was then able to bring the crate down to the ground.

When the driver began to remove the second crate, he struggled to lift it out of the HGV trailer. The crate struck a vertical support bar on the trailers side leaving it uneven on the forks. The forklift truck again became overbalanced, and the employees were directed to get on the back of the forklift again.

As the driver reversed, the crate slipped from the forks and the rear of the forklift fell to the ground.

Most of the people on the back of forklift managed to jump to safety however one employee was thrown to the ground, breaking his arm and cutting open his head. He was taken by ambulance to hospital.

The case was investigated by the Health and Safety Executive. They found that the accident was caused by a lack of sufficient planning.

The company failed to complete a risk assessment relating to the delivery of the heavy crates. A risk assessment would have identified the need for a lifting plan due to the unsuitability of the forklift.

The company had a safe systems of work method statement relating to the loading and unloading of items and specified that hazards such as the weight of the load should be considered when dealing with this area of work.

The delivery was out of the ordinary as deliveries usually consisted of pallets of ingredients for products which were much lighter than the crates on the day of the incident

It was the company’s responsibility to ensure that any lifting operations were properly planned, appropriately supervised, and carried out in a safe manner. They failed to do so.

The Director involved in instructing the employees on to the back of the forklift is no longer employed in any capacity by the company.

Debbie Carroll, who leads on health and safety investigations for the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) said:

"This accident could have been avoided if appropriate planning had been carried out prior to this incident.

“By failing to do so Lees of Scotland Limited exposed their employees to unacceptable risks.

“This prosecution should remind other employers that failing to keep their employees safe can have serious consequences and they will be held accountable for this failure.”