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Granite slabs crush worker against forklift

16 April 2024

A COMPANY and its director have been sentenced following the death of an employee.

Robert Czachracz was crushed by two granite slabs while working for West Midlands firm Graniteland on 30 November 2020.

The 46-year-old, who was from Poland, had been unpacking and moving the slabs onto storage racks, using an overhead crane, at the company’s Lyde Green site in Halesowen.

Two of the slabs, each weighing 250kg, fell and crushed Mr Czachracz against a forklift truck while he was operating the crane’s handheld pendant control.

He died at the scene despite desperate attempts from bystanders at nearby businesses and the emergency services to save him.

A Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation found Graniteland Limited and its director, Mr Shu Lai Li, failed to implement staff training or develop safe systems of work for the unloading, loading and handling of concrete slabs. There was no evidence that employees had received training in the safe operation of machinery, including the overhead crane. The overhead crane and forklift truck had also not been thoroughly examined, as required by law, and that webbing slings, that could have been used during the unpacking process, were damaged.


CFTS chairman Geoff Martin, says: “While the accident wasn’t directly caused by faulty equipment it could be argued that the absence of safety procedures, including a failure to carry out Thorough Examinations, shows a lack of care which will invariably lead to unsafe working practices. 

“After all, if equipment such as forklift trucks and cranes are not maintained and examined regularly to ensure they are in satisfactory working condition, what does that say about the health and safety standards within that organisation?   

“Looking at the picture of the forklift, it seems that someone has manufactured a wooden frame with a piece of Perspex to be used as a rain cover. This would almost certainly have been spotted by a CFTS-accredited competent person with the truck being removed from service. 

“The use of webbing slings would have averted the accident, but these were damaged. A CFTS-accredited Competent Person carrying out a Thorough Examination would have asked whether there were any accessories or attachments that may also need to be examined. Had the webbing been inspected – and removed from service – there is the possibility that the customer would have bought replacements that could have been used to move the slabs safely. 

“Health and safety are paramount in any workplace that operates forklift trucks and other lifting equipment and that means equipment must be regularly maintained and receive Thorough Examinations that meet the requirements of both LOLER and PUWER.”

Graniteland Limited, of Lyde Green, Halesowen, pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974. The company was fined £18,000 and ordered to pay £4,196.03 in costs at Dudley Magistrates’ Court on 6 March 2024.

Mr Shu Lai Li, of Lyde Green, Halesowen, pleaded guilty to breaching Section 37(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974. He was ordered to complete 120 hours of unpaid work and pay £4,043.42 in costs at Dudley Magistrates’ Court on 6 March 2024.

HSE inspector Mahesh Mahey said: “This was an entirely preventable accident. The risks of lifting and moving granite slabs were obvious, yet could have been controlled by relatively simple and inexpensive measures. The company and director failed to adequately control lifting operations which resulted in an employee needlessly and tragically losing his life.”

This prosecution was brought by HSE enforcement lawyer Andy Siddall and supported by HSE paralegal officer Rebecca Forman.

HSE guidance states employers must manage and control the risks to avoid any injury or damage during lifting operations. More on this can be found at: Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations (LOLER) (hse.gov.uk)