Tuesday 16 January 2018

Chewing gum factory worker settles High Court action over back injury during abseiling exercise

Tim Healy

A chewing gum factory worker has settled a High Court action over a back injury he says he sustained while doing a company training exercise involving him abseiling from from the cab of a forklift machine at a height of 31 feet.

Declan Kells (47), Hillview Lawns, Pottery Road, Dun Laoghaire, Co Dublin, claimed Cadbury Ireland Ltd was negligent and in breach of health and safety over the accident on June 13, 2007, when he allegedly injured his back during an exercise involving emergency evacuation from a high level forklift.

Mr Kells, a married father of three, also sued the firm employed by Cadbury to carry out the training, Jungheinrich Lift Truck Ltd, claiming it was also negligent in the way in which the exercise was conducted.

The defendants denied the claims.

The case began on Tuesday and yesterday, following talks, Conor Maguire SC, for Mr Kells, told Mr Justice Iarfhlaith O'Neill the matter had been settled and could be struck out.

The court heard Mr Kells, who is a general operative and forklift operator with Cadbury, was taking part in the training exercise at Cadbury's chewing gum facility in South City Business Park, Tallaght, Co Dublin.

It involved climbing out of the cab of the forklift which travels along narrow aisles in the warehouse to remove and store products on shelves which rise to 31 feet in height.

The evacuation practice was being done in case the forklift stopped operating or in case of a fire.   The forklift operator had to be able to get out of the cab at a high level using ropes and harness and effectively abseil to the ground, counsel for Mr Kells said.

Mr Kells had successfully completed evacuations at 10 and 20 feet but he experienced significant difficulties doing it at the higher 31 feet level, counsel said.

Mr Kells had to get under the forks of the forklift before he could abseil down but ended loosing his grip and hanging under the forks, fearing he would bang his head, counsel said.   When he got to the ground, his back was causing him serious pain.

He finished work and returned the next day but was unable to continue.

He later attended his own doctor, and the company doctor, but after returning to work on a number of occasions, he had to eventually stop in June 2009 because of his back problems.   He is still an employee of Cadbury.

Counsel said:   "In essence, what was being asked for was an advanced course in abseiling from people who were novices,"

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