‘My Jim was lucky – he could have been killed’

Jim McGowan
Jim McGowan

TWO firms have been fined after a worker was left with horrific head injuries in a forklift truck accident.

Jim McGowan, 66, suffered a double fracture to the skull, cracked bones in his face and broke his eye socket and is said to still suffer both physically and mentally from the ordeal.

His wife, Brenda, said he is lucky to be alive.

Mr McGowan was working for MD Engineering Services (UK) at the premises of SAICA Pack UK, on the Oakesway Industrial Estate, Hartlepool, when he was struck by the fork of a forklift truck on December 15, 2010, which also caused a deep gauge in his head.

The companies were ordered to pay fines and costs totalling £27,000 at Hartlepool Magistrates’ Court after a Health and Safety Executive investigation.

The Gateshead-based dad-of-two, who has five grandchildren, was forced to retire from the trade he had worked in for 49 years after the incident.

Speaking on his behalf, Mrs McGowan said: “It’s had a big impact on us both and the family. It’s changed everything. He was once so active and independent but now I have to spend more and more time with him, as you worry all the time if he’s safe.

“I hope that this case will help highlight the importance of safety, companies cannot afford to cut corners on safety putting people’s lives at risk. Jim was lucky, he could have been killed in this terrible incident and I just hope we can help stop anything like this happening to anyone else.”

Mr McGowan is getting ongoing support from a support worker, case manager, physiotherapist and a psychologist.

He is said to suffer short-term memory loss and his hearing, balance and taste have been affected.

MD Engineering Services (UK), had secured a contract to remove redundant machinery and equipment at the Hartlepool premises.

Mr McGowan was working to remove a piece of equipment from a mezzanine platform and had bent over ready to hook a lifting sling onto a fork of a forklift truck.

As the forks were raised, the right hand fork became caught on the stop bracket of the gate to the mezzanine. The driver was unaware and continued to raise the forks. The force was great enough to shear the bracket, releasing the fork which sprung upwards, striking Mr McGowan on the forehead.

An investigation by HSE found that SAICA Pack UK had failed to ensure the work was carried out by competent persons and that its control of contractors was inadequate.

The investigation also established that MD Engineering Services (UK) Ltd had failed to adequately assess, plan and carry out the lifting operation or ensure that the workers sent to do the job had not been properly trained.

SAICA Pack UK, which runs from a head office in Darlington, was fined £13,000 and ordered to pay £5,489.40 in costs after pleading guilty to breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.

MD Engineering Services (UK), of Fencehouses, Houghton-le-Spring, was fined £4,000 and ordered to pay £4,600 in costs after pleading guilty to breaching Regulation 8(1)(c) of the Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998.

HSE Inspector Victoria Wise said: “What happened on that day was totally preventable.

Both companies failed in their duty of care to Mr McGowan and as a result he suffered serious head injuries.

“It clearly illustrates the importance of ensuring that lifting operations are properly planned and managed by a competent person.”