Swissport GB fined more than £500,000 after workers suffer falls at Luton airport

Commercial Motor
March 5, 2018


Luton Crown Court heard last month that a flatbed lorry at Luton Airport drove off with a worker still on the back, causing him to fall off and hurt his back.

Airport baggage and cargo handler Swissport GB has been fined more than £500,000 for this and another accident at Luton Airport in 2015.

On the 23 June 2015, a ramp agent and team leader for Swissport GB was working at Luton Airport. Using a flatbed lorry and a belt loader, the team leader and his team unloaded the bags from an aircraft onto a flatbed lorry.

Whilst standing on the back of the flatbed, the worker directed a colleague to take the bags to the airport inbound terminal.

The colleague climbed into the cab of the flatbed, checked his mirrors and drove away not realising the team leader was still on the vehicle.

The worker fell off the moving vehicle onto the ground sustaining bruising and damage to his spine. He was off work for eight weeks.

On 9 September 2015 a second team leader employed by Swissport was working at Luton Airport on a night shift loading cargo onto an aircraft using a high-loader.

The high-loader had a platform that raised cargo from the ground up to the aircraft hold and extended to approximately 9 metres.

The high-loader had been partially raised when the team leader began climbing the access ladder. As he was climbing the ladder, one of his feet slipped and he fell backwards to the ground suffering an impact injury to his right foot.

Luton Crown Court heard that Swissport GB had not adequately assessed the risk or implemented a safe system of work to address the risk of employees falling from the rear of flatbed vehicles being driven away with workers still on the flatbed.

The court heard that Swissport had failed to ensure that work at height on high-loaders was properly planned, appropriately supervised and carried out in a safe manner.

Swissport GB pleaded guilty to breaching Sections 2 (1) and 3 (1) of the Health and Safety at Work 1974 and Regulation 4 (1) of the Work at Height Regulations 2005. It was fined £502,000 and ordered to pay costs of £44,444.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector Emma Page said: “Employers should be aware of their legal duty to protect the health and safety of their employees and those not in their employment.

"Companies should be aware that HSE will not hesitate to take appropriate enforcement action against those that fall below the required standards.”

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