Inquest continues into forklift driver’s death at Llay plant – DollarJob

Inquest continues into forklift driver’s death at Llay plant

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Stephen Pritchard was coming to the end of his night shift at Martin Industries on Llay Industrial Estate, on February 26, 2020, when the incident occurred.

At County Hall in Ruthin on Tuesday (February 20), an inquest resumed into the 48-year-old’s death. 

Mr Pritchard, of Pentre Street, Llay, had gone to the assistance of a lorry driver who was trying to secure the roof of a HGV. 

CCTV footage played to the coroner’s court showed Mr Pritchard pulling up alongside the lorry in his JCB telehandler forklift truck. The vehicle then stops briefly, before it jerks forwards and makes contact with the HGV. Mr Pritchard is then seen falling to the ground to the side of the forklift, holding his chest. 

Work colleagues began CPR and Mr Pritchard, a father-of-three, was taken to Wrexham Maelor Hospital – whereby he sadly died shortly after. 

A post-mortem examination revealed that Mr Pritchard had sustained severe crush injuries to the chest area. 

On the second of a four-day inquest, the inquest explored the possibility of the driver gear stick lever, which moves forklifts, could be accidentally knocked into gear.

Giving evidence, Lee Wood-Jones, a forklift driver at Marlin, said that it is “possible” for the gear stick lever to be knocked forward accidentally while exiting the vehicle. Mr Wood-Jones said it had happened to him “a couple of times”, but the forklift hadn’t moved as the handbrake had been applied. 

Mr Wood-Jones was asked about a statement made in September 2022, where he said that the older forklifts that were being used at the time of the incident could move “quite abruptly” if the driving stick was accidentally knocked forward when the handbrake was off. During questioning in the inquest, Mr Wood-Jones said that he hadn’t witnessed it happen, but that he had likely heard it of it happening. 

Asked by North Wales East and Central senior coroner John Gittins what he thought occurred in the incident in question, Mr Wood-Jones replied: “I don’t know.”

An aspect being explored by the inquest is why a seat safety sensor, which is designed to not allow the forklift to move when no one is seating in the driver’s seat, had been deactivated. This was found to be the case after the Health and Safety Executive seized the forklift for an inspection. 

Both Mr Wood-Jones, and Mark Griffiths, who was team leader on the yard at Marlin at the time of the incident, told the inquest they weren’t aware that such a device was present in the vehicle. 

Also giving evidence was Elizabeth Selby, representing South Wales Fork Trucks (SWFT), which Marlin had hired the forklift from. 

She said that the deactivation of the seat sensor would have been done “deliberately”, but is “confident” that this would have been spotted during the forklift’s last thorough examination before the incident was carried out by her company in September 2018. The inquest had previously heard that the forklift’s thorough examination certificate had expired in September 2019, and, as per Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998, should not have been used until an examination had taken place and a certificate issued. 

The inquest was told that SWFT and Marlin were in the process of organising a thorough examination of the vehicle when the incident occurred. It had been delayed after Marlin had closed its site in Newport, and moved the forklift up to Wrexham from there. SWFT was therefore in the process of appointing a sub-contractor based in Wrexham to undertake the examination of the vehicle. 

Miss Selby said that any engineer found to have disabled the seat sensor would have been dismissed by SWFT. 

The inquest is being considered by a jury and is expected to last four days. 

 



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