Safety concerns raised after teenager crushed to death by forklift truck at Norfolk farm

ANGLIA 280922 FORKLIFT Zach Richardson/PA
Zach Richardson was 18 when he died. Credit: PA Wire

A teenager died less than a month after starting a new job at a farm where he was crushed by a forklift truck, an inquest heard.

The coroner raised serious safety concerns after hearing that Zach Richardson, 18, had been found trapped between the truck and a wall on October 24 2020.

The inquest concluded that his death was an accident, with the medical cause of death recorded as compression asphyxia.

In a report on Mr Richardson's death at Elm Farm, near Shipdham in Norfolk, the county's coroner Jacqueline Lake said she was concerned there was a "risk that future deaths could occur unless action is taken".

Among her concerns was that a seat safety switch on a forklift truck, that should have prevented it from moving if there was nobody in the driver's seat, "had been defeated at some point prior to the incident".

Ms Lake added that the “seat safety switch device on one of the forklift trucks was defective”.

She said the inquest heard evidence that a health and safety consultant "visited the sites at Lincs Firewood and Dodds and Son in October and November 2020, following Mr Richardson's death" and "found there was little understanding of the importance of health and safety".

Mr Richardson, of Hubberts Bridge near Boston, Lincolnshire, started working for Lincolnshire Firewood Company as a yardman on October 6 2020.

"He completed a two-day practical and theoretical training course on operating forklift trucks October 18," Ms Lake wrote.

"On October 24 Mr Richardson went to DD Dodds and Son's Elm Farm Site to help tidy up the site.

"He was alone from approximately 1551 hours until 1713 hours. At approximately 1716 hours Mr Richardson was found trapped between a forklift truck and a wall.

"Mr Richardson suffered fatal injuries and was declared dead at the scene."

Ms Lake said she had sent copies of her report, detailing her concerns, to Lincs Firewood Co Ltd, DD Dodds and Son Ltd and Mr Richardson's employer Evan Jenkins.

They are required to respond within 56 days of the date of the report, by 21 November, detailing the action taken or proposed to be taken, to address the concerns setting out the timetable for action.

Lawyer Emma Hall, representing the Richardson family in a civil claim against both companies, said the coroner had "issued the sternest warning she can".

"Particularly insidious is that safety switches on the forklifts specially in place to protect employees were defective," she added.

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