Envelope printer First Class Post was fined 2,500 and ordered to pay 1,041 in costs by Leeds magistrates for allowing staff to be lifted nearly six metres in a box perched on a forklift truck.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) brought the prosecution against the Leeds-based company, which last Friday (30 November) pleaded guilty to breaching Work at Height Regulations 2005.
The action was brought after the HSE conducted an investigation that found that employees were regularly put at risk during quarterly stock checks.
The HSE said that staff were lifted five-to-six metres in an "unsuitable plastic box or a cage balanced on the forks of the truck", that the risk of falling was "magnified as there was no way to secure the box to the truck forks" and that there were "no fixing points in the box to which a safety harness could be attached".
Following last week’s court hearing, Paul Newton, an HSE inspector, said: "It was luck rather than good management that there had not been a serious injury at First Class Post as a result of this reckless working practice. I hope this prosecution will prevent one from happening in the future."
The HSE said that the dangers of falls in the workplace are well documented. In 2010/11, 38 people died as a result of a workplace fall and more than 4,000 suffered a major injury from falls.
"Putting employees at risk in this way is simply not acceptable," Newton added. "If the company had complied with the law requiring work at height to be properly planned and carried out safely under supervision, it would not have had to face this charge."
First Class Post issued a press statement saying it takes health and safety seriously. "However, following an inspection, the HSE identified that their stock taking procedure was not properly planned or appropriately supervised," the statement said.
"Immediate changes were made to the stock taking procedure and the company has accepted its oversight by pleading guilty on the basis of a technical breach.
"The company would like to express that this prosecution did not arise as a consequence of any accident nor failure to comply with any Improvement or Prohibition Notice."