Sometimes it is easy to underestimate the dangers of working around pallets, pallet trucks, forklift trucks, and other storage/transportation equipment. The problem with forklift truck accidents is that up to 70% could actually be prevented if all safety regulations and standard of equipment guidelines were implemented. It is also worth noting that with 42% of fatalities due to drivers being crushed by a tipping vehicle it is not difficult to see where training and better quality equipment might help.
There are obviously many challenges for an industry where some pallets can assist in the lifting of up to 50 tonnes of equipment via a forklift truck. We will now take a look at the more common types of pallet accidents and injuries and where they occur.
Moving Pallets At Work
Pallets are an integral part of the transportation of goods and equipment and play a vital role in many different industries. The split of pallet accidents between industries will surprise many people and is as follows:
- 45% – Industrial
- 20% – Construction
- 12% – Wholesale
- 11% – Transportation
- 10% – Retail
- 2% – Mining
The more common types of injuries include:
- 42% – Crushed when vehicle tipping over
- 25% – Crush between vehicle and surface
- 11% – Crush between two vehicles
- 11% – Run over
- 8% – Struck by falling vehicle
- 4% – Falling from forklift truck
The above information gives you an indication of the most common injuries and the industries in which they tend to occur. We will now take a look at where responsibility lies with regards to pallet accidents and the process of claiming compensation for a pallet accident causing injury.
Legislation Protecting The Workforce
First and foremost, every employer has a duty of care to their employees using pallets which takes in many different factors. It is also worth noting that each individual employee also has a duty of care to protect their colleagues and go about their daily activities in a safe and secure manner. Thankfully, there is various forms of legal legislation in place which assists both employers and employees in relation to work health and safety and their liabilities and responsibilities.
When combined these legal acts of Parliament place a number of obligations on the shoulders of employers to protect their workforce including those using pallets and pallet trucks. These obligations include:
- Carrying out regular risk assessments of the working environment.
- Making changes to health and safety procedures where applicable.
- Initial and ongoing staff training in relation to risks and safety.
- Providing protective equipment for each employee.
- Appropriate signposts on the work floor.
- Ensuring the work floor is clean, tidy and safe.
- All pallets are constructed to BS ISO 445 safety standards and fully maintained.
The Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations Act 1998 also covers powered pallet trucks which are used to transport pallets and bring with them an array of unique challenges. While each employer is legally obliged to carry out training exercises for every employee this is even more important for those using powered pallet trucks.
Common Pallet Related Injury Claims
Over the years a number of patterns have emerged in the area of pallet related accident injury claims. While injuries can be the result of a number of different scenarios, some of the more common include:
- Use of inferior materials.
- Poor design, construction or repair.
- Unsafe stacking – endangering driver and colleagues/visitors.
- Use of unsuitable pallets for a particular situation.
- Handling issues when using European size pallets for UK storage facilities.
- Failure to maintain and repair pallets.
- Substandard handling techniques.
- The use of pallets in unsuitable environments.
This is just a selection of the more common reasons for pallet related accidents and resulting personal injury claims and while progress has been made in some areas of safety, there is still work to be done. The use of substandard equipment seems to be quite a common factor in some pallet accident compensation claims and, as we mentioned above, the fact is many injuries could have been avoided.
Proving Negligence In Pallet Accident Injury Claims
The duty of care which every employer has to each individual employee features heavily in pallet related injury compensation claims. As with any compensation claim there is a need to prove that the injury occurred as a result of negligence by either one or more third parties. In some circumstances you may see a shared negligence/liability scenario where either the claimant or other third parties have been negligent in tandem with the employer.
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For the record, difficulty in proving the share of negligence/liability for a number of third parties should not stop the claimant from lodging their pallet accident claim for compensation. It is up to the courts, or a possible out-of-court settlement, to rule on negligent parties and their share of liability. Under UK business law, every employer is required to have insurance in place to cover compensation claims. As a consequence, even if the defendant was to go out of business before any compensation for a pallet accident was received, this would have no impact upon the payment which would be made by the insurance company which provided cover.
Lodging A Claim For Pallet Accident Compensation
If you have suffered injury from a pallet accident as a consequence of negligence by one or more third parties there is every chance that you have a legitimate pallet accident claim for compensation. In the event of an accident it is vital that details are noted in the company’s accident book which is regularly reviewed by the Health and Safety Executive. However, before any notes are made it is imperative that all injured parties seek medical assistance as soon as possible.
In the event of an injury adrenaline can sometimes kick in masking potential injuries in the short term. Therefore, it really is imperative that those involved in pallet accidents in the workplace seek a medical checkup and relevant assistance. This is a very important matter in the event that a pallet injury compensation claim is lodged in the future. Any medical checkup and treatment received will be noted in the claimant’s medical records which can be used as evidence as and when required.
Supporting Evidence In Pallet Accident Claims
In a perfect world pictures of the area in which the pallet accident occurred, damage to equipment and certainly injuries to individuals can help to support any pallet accident compensation claim. There will be occasions where the claimant, or an associate, is able to take pictures and also record details of witnesses to the incident. There may also be situations where similar injuries from pallet accidents have occurred in recent times which not only back a future compensation claim but also cast a very dark cloud on an employer and how seriously they take their duty of care to employees.
As soon as possible it is also imperative that a detailed record of the incident, time, place and resulting injuries is recorded by the claimant. Witness statements, photographs and other supporting evidence should also be collated with details of the pallet accident. This information is very important when seeking guidance from personal injury solicitors who will appreciate as much information and detail as possible. Relatively quickly they should be able to advise about the strength of your case and where applicable further medical examinations can be arranged.
In the event of a strong pallet accident claim in most cases there will be the opportunity to work on a No Win No Fee basis where any compensation awarded is split on a prearranged basis to pay the solicitors success fee. The next task is to put together a report and lodge a pallet accident compensation claim with the courts. The defendant will receive a copy of this report and supporting evidence at which point they may decide to pursue an out-of-court settlement or contest negligence through the courts.
What Compensation Can You Claim?
In any pallet accident compensation claim there are two types of compensation which will be considered by personal injury solicitors. While the aspects considered will vary case by case, general damages include compensation for:
- Pain and suffering directly due to the pallet accident
- Mental trauma
- Life changing injuries
There are no hard and fast rules with regards to amounts of compensation for a pallet accident causing injury but there are guidelines which the courts and insurance companies regularly refer to. The level of general damages awarded will reflect the serious nature of individual injuries and the impact on the claimant’s life.
The situation regarding special damages is more straightforward because this reflects any expenses incurred as a result of injury and future expenses likely to be incurred. Matters taken into consideration include:
• Loss of earnings directly due to the pallet accident
• Future loss of earnings
• Transport expenses as a result of the accident
• Medical expenses
• Future medical expenses
• Adaptions required to the home
In many ways the lodging of a pallet accident compensation claim will make a negligent party think again about working procedures and the safety of their employees. While it is obviously important that victims are compensated accordingly, pursuing a successful claim will also likely lead to a safer working environment in the future. Unfortunately, in many cases it takes a financial hit to encourage employers to revisit their working practices.