A TOTTON-BASED firm has been fined after an employee lost his leg in a collision with a fork-lift truck.

Puma Engineering and Construction Limited was fined £8,000 by district judge Loraine Morgan, after admitting falling short of health and safety rules.

Employee David White was rushed to hospital and put on life support after his leg was struck by the wheel of a truck.

The incident took place while Mr White was at the company’s site in Brunel Road, Totton.

He was working as a ‘banksman’, helping steady a load of heavy pipework attached to a forklift as it moved across the yard.

But as Mr White walked alongside the fork-lift, the left hand wheel went into the back of his left heel.

Southampton Magistrates’ Court heard how Mr White screamed as he fell to the ground, while the driver, Phil Hingston, quickly reversed and called for first aid.

Briony Clarke, speaking on behalf of Health and Safety Executive (HSE), told the court how Mr White’s family were told to “prepare for the worst” following the incident last November.

He spent four weeks in hospital and had four operations, including the amputation of his leg below the knee.

An investigation was launched by the HSE, which said the use of a banksman to guide fork-lift loads had become a “daily occurrence” and this created an “unsafe system of work”. e found the company had general risk assessments for the work Mr White was carrying out, but specific plans for lifting.

He also suggested the use of tag lines, a piece of equipment that can help steady loads on a fork-lift, rather than a worker, or ‘banksman’, doing it by hand.

The company said that the use of a banksman was a “better way” to secure the loads.

However the HSE found the company’s own risk assessment advised that as “precaution to control risk” that workers should “attach tag line to load to ensure maximum control”

The company pleaded guilty to failing to ensure Mr White was not exposed to health and safety risks.

Representing Puma Engineering, Simon Morgan said that the circumstances around the incident were “unusual”. In part, this was because of a broken down vehicle in the fork-lift’s path that had caused a longer than usual journey.

He said that both Mr White and fork-lift driver Mr Hingston were “experienced” workers.

Mr Morgan said the firm’s ethos was around health and safety, and it had spent almost £45,000 on training in 2016.

He also warned that company could suffer up to a 40 per cent loss in trade as a result of the conviction – the first in its 12 year history.

Fining the company £8,000, with an added £3,000 in court costs, district Judge Morgan said: “I want to start by expressing the court’s recognition of the life changing injuries Mr White suffered that day.“I can only imagine what kind of impact that this has had on this previously active man, his wife and his family.”

“I take into account the company’s co-operation in the investigation and the voluntary steps the company has taken to make sure an incident like this does not happen again.

“I also take into account the regret of the directors, who this has had both a personal and professional impact on.”