Manufacturing firm fined over worker’s death

A West Yorkshire company has been sentenced after a worker died when he was crushed beneath a one tonne silo of varnish that slid from the tines of a forklift truck and toppled onto him.

Wayne Potts, 39, of Dalefield Avenue, Normanton, died from his injuries hours after the incident on 25 March 2011 at Gardiner Colours Ltd’s factory in Ripley Drive nearby.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) prosecuted the company, which makes inks, varnishes and coatings, after an investigation highlighted several safety failings, crucially the failure by Gardiner’s to spot risks to its workforce.

Leeds Crown Court was told (7 Jan) that a customer of the company had returned part of an order as it couldn’t decant varnish from a silo and had asked for the liquid be re-sent in 10kg plastic containers.

Because of difficulties in changing the order, workers were tasked with decanting the varnish directly from the silo into the containers via a tap at the base of the silo, which had been raised on the tines of the forklift.

As Mr Potts worked on the decanting, the silo slid down the tines and fell directly onto him. He died in hospital later the same night.

HSE found a combination of the creeping heavy load, the downward tilt of the forks, and the valve being used frequently from below, had caused the silo to fall.

HSE said Gardiner Colours had failed to assess the risks to workers of the decanting operation. As a result, employees were operating without a system of work in place to help them do the job in safety.

The court also heard it had been dangerous for the forklift to be used to balance heavy loads for extended periods – a job it was not designed for.

HSE said the failures by Gardiner Colours Ltd to provide a safe working environment had exposed employees to serious risk and led to Mr Potts’ death.

There was evidence that this was not the only incident at Gardiner Colours that had involved a load falling from the tines of a forklift truck; this near-miss ought to have alerted the company to the risk of a silo falling.

The company, of Ripley Drive, Normanton, near Wakefield, was fined £66,000 and ordered to pay £50,000 in costs after admitting breaching the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.

After the hearing, the investigating HSE inspector Phil Burgess said:

“A system that involves a person standing in the immediate vicinity of a suspended load on a forklift truck, which had no driver, is inherently unsafe. The forklift is not capable of holding elevated loads for long periods yet it was a system that had been allowed to develop over time, despite there being readily-available, safe alternatives.

“Every worker should quite rightly expect that they will return home safely from work every day. Sadly this did not happen for Wayne Potts that day but there is no doubt that his death was avoidable had Gardiner Colours effectively managed the health, safety and welfare of its employees and learned lessons from previous incidents and near-misses.”

Advice on the safe use of forklift trucks can be found on HSE’s website at

Notes to Editors:

  1. The Health and Safety Executive is Britain’s national regulator for workplace health and safety. It aims to reduce work-related death, injury and ill health. It does so through research, information and advice; promoting training; new or revised regulations and codes of practice; and working with local authority partners by inspection, investigation and enforcement.
  2. Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 states: “It shall be the duty of every employer to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of all his employees.”

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