Firm faces prosecution two years after worker’s death

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THE Health and Safety Executive has charged a Wakefield textiles company with breaching their duty to employees more than two years after a worker was killed.

Forklift truck driver James Welka, 61, suffered fatal injuries when bales of fabric fell on him at WE Rawsons on Portobello Road, Wakefield, on February 22, 2010.

After a two-day inquest at Wakefield Coroner’s Court In June last year, a jury ruled Mr Welka’s death was accidental.

However, the HSE is now prosecuting the firm in connection with the tragedy after claiming WE Rawson failed to ensure workers’ safety at the rag bale warehouse.

WE Rawson’s operations director David Blades was at Wakefield Magistrates’ Court last Friday. No plea was entered and magistrates adjourned the case until November 15.

At an inquest last June, the jury heard Mr Welka had got out of his forklift truck to make a phone call when the bales fell on him. Mr Welka, of Walker Avenue, Peacock, Wakefield, was taken to Pinderfields Hospital but died from multiple injuries. The jury was told Mr Welka was supervising a new employee, Stefan Golec, when the bales of fabric toppled over and hit him.

Giving evidence, Mr Golec said: “I heard a noise and then a roll of rag bales fell on the side of the forklift truck.”

The hearing was told a report compiled by the HSE said the bales could have been dislodged by Mr Golec’s forklift truck. But assistant deputy coroner Kevin McLoughlin ruled there was no evidence to support that theory.

Rawsons warehouse manager John Lee told the inquest that he had put the tragedy “down to a horrible accident”.

He added that, in his opinion, Mr Golec, who is experienced forklift driver, could not have moved the bales.

Rawsons operations director Mr Blades told the inquest a new stacking system for bales of fabric, designed to ensure they did not topple over, had been brought in.