Vion fined for shipping container fall

Vion Foods UK has been fined for an incident that saw a worker blown off the top of a shipping container while moving corrugated metal sheets.

Taunton Magistrates’ Court heard that Barry Walton, 64, was working at Vion’s food processing plant in Wiveliscombe when the incident occurred on 10 February 2010. He was standing on top of the shipping container, lifting the metal sheets from a forklift onto the roof when a gust of wind knocked him off the edge.

Walton fell more than two-and-a-half metres to the ground, breaking his ribs and damaging muscles in his leg and shoulder, and was off work for seven weeks as a result.

The Health & Safety Executive (HSE) said that an investigation into the incident revealed that Vion Foods UK had “failed to plan the work properly” and had not carried out a risk assessment or ensured that a safe system of work was in place to prevent a fall. It also found that while the work was being supervised by another employee, Walton had not had adequate training for working at height.

Vion Foods UK pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Etc. Act 1974 and was fined £12,000 and £4,400 in costs.

HSE inspector Kate Leftly said: “Any work at height needs to be properly planned and supervised to minimise the risk to workers. If these things are not done, falls can happen all too easily with serious consequences.

“In this instance, Mr Walton did not need to be standing on the shipping container to carry out the work: he could have used a vehicle, such as a forklift, to deposit the sheets or he could have worked from a contained elevated platform.”