Ann Brennan, 49, was crushed to death in an accident involving a forklift truck loading pallets of Pringles in Bristol. An inquest at Flax Bourton Coroner’s Court has heard that the warehouse based in the Avonmouth has had several ‘near-misses’ in the past. It was recorded as an accidental death by Coroner Gail Elliman following deliberations from the jury for half an hour.
Ann’s sister Deborah Teagle, 51, spoke out about her sister –
‘Annie was such a bubbly, selfless character and she was a rock for the family, looking out for us all and caring for our dad. She enjoyed her job at the factory and had been there most of her working life. She was very loyal. When we received the call to say what had happened we were just in complete shock. It didn’t feel real that Annie, who was always so full of life, was gone. The emergency services and air ambulance were amazing and did everything they could to try and save her and we want to thank them for the amazing service they provide.
Sadly, nothing could be done for Annie, but they save thousands of other lives every year. It has been very difficult to hear that safety precautions were lacking at the warehouse which may have saved Annie but we hope changes have been made at the warehouse and are working to protect other employees. Nothing will bring Annie back but it would give us some peace of mind to know her death was not completely in vain.’
There is currently an on-going investigation being conducted by Bristol City Council into health and safety at the warehouse and it is unlikely to conclude for another several months. A safety inspector speaking at the inquest spoke of how he had witnessed members of staff using loading equipment as scooters at the Avonmouth Booker Wholesale cash and carry when he examined CCTV footage after the death of the warehouse assistant in 2011.Furthermore, there was no speed limit and no division between pedestrians and vehicles in the loading bay where the tragic accident took place.
Ann, who was also an enthusiastic player of amateur rugby, died when the gas-powered forklift truck reversed in the warehouse in December 2011. By the time Paramedics arrived her heart had stopped and she was not breathing. She was subsequently resuscitated on the way to Frenchay Hospital in an air ambulance, however she later died from multiple fractures and internal injuries not long after arriving in hospital. The inquest also heard that the forklift truck which struck Ms Brennan was driven by replenishment supervisor Ben Morris. Mr Morris spoke of how the accident occurred when he was loading pallets of Pringles into the rear of a lorry for a delivery –
‘As I was reversing round I looked over my shoulder and I couldn’t see anything. Then I felt the rear left wheel lift up in the air. I slammed the brake on and I jumped out of the forklift and started screaming and that’s all I can remember.’
Stephen French, Booker area manager, was at the front reception of the store when he was notified about the incident. Upon arriving, he found staff attempting to lift the forklift off of Ms Brennan – an impossible task. On the matter he said – ‘It couldn’t be done, but under the circumstances people were just trying to do whatever they could.’ Following this Mr French was asked about health and safety policies in the warehouse and he admitted there was ‘no segregation policy at that time’ between pedestrians and vehicles, with ‘no existing policy in the goods-in area’ and ‘no speed limit’.
The driver of the lorry that was being loaded, Ronald Crandon, told the court he had witnessed similar incidents before. He said that he believed there were safety measures enforced. The then went on to say that he had seen a ‘near miss’ and had a ‘bump’ with a forklift while using a pallet truck and this had resultantly led to lines being drawn to separate pedestrians. However, Paul Tregale, the Bristol City Council health and safety inspector, said there were no such measures in place and that members of staff lacked awareness in risk assessment.