Inexperienced scaffolding worker killed in forklift accident


This sad and needless death was due to a failure to abide by established and obvious construction safety guidelines. An untrained young worker was killed when he was allowed to drive a forklift truck.

Basil ‘Bill’ Pinkney runs B. D. Pinkney & Co., a small scaffolding refurbishment operation in Coatbridge, N. Lanarkshire, Scotland. The fatal incident took place there on 28th August 2012.

Previous warning

But several years before that, a forklift truck was spotted by an HSE inspector, being driven by an unqualified worker. At that time he instructed Mr. Pinkney to make sure that only trained operatives can drive forklifts.

Despite this, in August 2012 it emerged that some workers were told to drive forklifts, despite not having received proper professional training or been licensed.

One of these was David Westwater (22) who had joined the firm just two weeks previously. At the time three trained forklift drivers were available on site. Mr Westwater by contrast had received just 20 minutes of informal training from other workers, which of course is totally inadequate. In particular, he was not given proper instruction in the need to wear a seatbelt or how to minimise the risks of making sharp turns in the vehicle.

Forklift truck driven needlessly

He nevertheless used the forklift truck at the end of a shift, to go and meet his girlfriend who was due to pick him up. The route involved going down a sloping route to the front site gate. In doing so, he turned sharply left and the truck fell over. Had he been wearing his seat belt, he should have been protected by the safety cage: but as it was he fell out and was crushed by the cage.

His girlfriend screamed and another worker used his forklift to lift the stricken truck off Mr Westwater: but due to his head injuries he died despite the attempts of paramedics.

The subsequent HSE investigation showed that Mr. Pinkney did not have a safe system of working on his site. He had properly trained workers who could drive the forklift trucks: yet other untrained employees were dangerously allowed or required to drive them as well. In this case, the use was not even for a work-related purpose, and should never have been allowed.

As a result, at Airdrie Sheriff Court, Basil Pinkney (69) trading as B. D. Pinkney & Co. of Coatbridge, received a fine of £24,500. He had pleaded guilty under the provisions of Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974.

Workplace transport safety is always a major issue on building sites. Some outline information for contractors can be found here. And for training and for general guidance from genuine construction safety consultants, speak to McCormack Benson Health & Safety.