Tragic Accident Underscores Lift Truck Safety

ESSEX, U.K.—A six-year-old boy was crushed to death by a giant roll of paper after his father let him ride on a lift truck at the Port of Tilbury London Ltd., where he worked.

At trial, a U.K. court was told that Peter Littmoden took his children, Harry and Katie Palmer, with him to his workplace Aug. 29, 2003. Harry asked if he could ride on a lift truck, and his father agreed.

The vehicle collided with another lift truck carrying an unsecured reel of newspaper. The roll, which weighed approximately three-quarters of a ton, fell on top of the boy, trapping and crushing him. Harry suffered major trauma wounds and died.

The Port of Tilbury pleaded guilty to two counts of breaching the U.K.’s Health and Safety at Work Act and blamed Littmoden, and another employee who participated, saying they failed to follow company rules.

However, the prosecuting attorney in the trial disagreed, stating the company was responsible for the accident. Normally, a clamp would secure newsprint reels to the lift trucks during loading and unloading at the docks. In this case, only two reels could be clamped, so the company created a practice in which a third reel of newsprint is carried, unclamped and unsecured, on top of the clamped reels, according to the prosecutor.

He accused the company of ignoring its own training procedures and cutting corners to increase profitability.

The trial is ongoing.

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