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Concrete accident blamed on lack of translation from English to Polish

19 Nov 12 The need for companies to display safety signs not just in English but also in the languages of their migrant workforce was highlighted by a court case last week.

A Shropshire concrete firm was prosecuted after a worker suffered serious leg injuries when he was hit by a forklift truck.

Tomasz Kosmacz, 38, of Hadley, was responsible for removing excess concrete from moulds at Elite Precast Concrete Ltd's Telford factory.

Mr Kosmacz was putting the excess concrete in a bucket and then onto the prongs of the forklift. He did not speak English and was unable to understand safety warning signs.

He was working near the forklift when he was struck by the vehicle. He suffered multiple foot fractures, needed four screws in his broken ankle and also damaged his knee. He had to have two operations and is still unable to work following the incident on 7 July 2011.

Telford Magistrates heard that the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) found there was a written instruction in the factory stating the bucket should be placed on a pallet, not directly on the forks. This had not been translated into Polish for the benefit of the migrant labour the company employed, many of whom, like Mr Kosmacz, did not speak English.

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Elite Precast Concrete Ltd, of Unit L, Halesfield 9, Telford, Shropshire, pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. The firm was fined £10,000 and ordered to pay costs of £2,897.

After the hearing HSE inspector Katharine Walker said: "The incident was entirely preventable. Had the instruction requiring the use of a pallet to move the waste been translated into Polish and effectively communicated to the workers, Mr Kosmacz would not have had to endure these painful injuries.

"Elite Precast Concrete Ltd took no effective steps to prevent this incident. They relied heavily on migrant labour but lacked the arrangements to allow those workers to enjoy the expected level of safety.

"The company had allowed an unsafe custom and practice to develop. There was no effective segregation of vehicles and pedestrians and the means of transporting the waste concrete was bound to bring the two into contact.

"Mr Kosmacz had been working in this manner for a number of weeks - it was not a single error on a single day; there was an inevitability that someone was going to get hurt."

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