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Grantham employee would have survived forklift truck accident if he was wearing seatbelt, inquest told

Steve Woollas
Steve Woollas

A man who was crushed under his forklift truck at a Grantham company would have survived if he was wearing his seatbelt, an inquest at Grantham Magistrates Court was told.

Sian Tiernan, of the Health and Safety Executive, told the inquest into the death of Stephen Woollas, 49, that if he had worn the seatbelt he would have lived. Instead, she said Mr Woollas, of Harrowby Road, Grantham, either jumped or was thrown out of the cab when it tipped over and crushed him at Vacu-Lug Traction Tyres Ltd, in Gonerby Hill Foot, on July 30 last year.

Miss Tiernan said the immediate cause of the accident was the truck hitting a tyre and overturning. She said the wearing of seatbelts by forklift truck drivers at Vacu-Lug was not enforced before the accident. She said drivers fitted the belts round the back of the seat to stop an alarm sounding.

Miss Tiernan also told the inquest that tyres were stored on the roadway where the accident occurred, causing an obstruction and increasing the risk of a truck overturning.

Yesterday, the second day of the inquest, Managing Director of Vacu-Lug Tim Hercock said about 1,000 tyres were moved every day at the site and up to 14,000 tyres were stored there. The forklift trucks were checked every six months. He said there were ‘safe systems of work in place’ at the time of the accident. He was aware that it was up to the drivers’ ‘discretion’ to wear seatbelts.

Mr Hercock said there was no record of any truck overturning before. He said the company did not believe there was a ‘significant risk’ of a truck tipping over. After the accident drivers were told they had to wear seatbelts. He also said that tyres were no longer stored on the roadway where the accident took place.

While giving evidence, Mr Hercock said: “The company wishes to express its sincere condolensces to Steve’s family.”

Det Inspt Peter Grayson, of Lincolnshire Police, who attended the incident on the morning of July 30, said it was decided not to commence criminal proceedings. He said the incident did not ‘reach the threshold for gross negligence or manslaughter’.

The inquest was told earlier that a post mortem revealed Mr Woollas died of injuries consistent with a severe crush injury to the chest. A jury was sworn in on Monday morning at Grantham Magistrates Court.

Mark Shepherd, a witness at the inquest, said he was team leader at the time of the accident. He said he did not see the accident happen but remembered hearing a ‘loud noise’ and ran down to where it came from. He saw that Mr Woollas’ truck had tipped over on top of him,

Another fork lift truck was used to lift Mr Woollas’ vehicle off him. An ambulance and ambucopter arived but the inquest heard Mr Woollas died at the scene.

Mr Shepherd told the inquest: “We saw Steven trapped under the truck by the cab and we tried to lift it off him.”

Describing his colleague, he said he “could not fault him.” He added: “If you wanted something doing right, he was the one to go to.”

The inquest heard Mr Woollas was using a special clamp mechanism on the front of his truck to pick up tyres which were stored at the side of a road on the site. The accident happened after he had picked up some tyres.

Coroner Stuart Fisher will sum up the evidence today and the jury is expected to give a verdict this afternoon.


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