A COMPANY has been fined £16,000 after an employee at its Huddersfield works lost a finger.

Leeds-based Howarth Timber Group, which has a works in Burbeary Road, Lockwood, was fined by Huddersfield magistrates after pleading guilty to breaking the 1974 Health and Safety at Work Act.

The firm, which makes roof trusses, failed to ensure the safety of Tyrone O'Neill.

Mr O'Neill, 30, seriously injured his hand while driving a side-loading forklift truck last July.

He was parked near a ramp which led into a storeroom when he noticed another truck coming towards the storeroom entrance. He moved his vehicle to give the other driver more room, but suddenly realised the left side of his truck was too close to a salvage skip near the ramp.

He could not stop the truck before it hit the skip, trapping his left hand between the cab doorframe and the skip.

One of his fingers was cut off, his palm was crushed and sheared and his ring finger was cut, causing nerve damage.

Part of Mr O'Neill's palm had to be amputated at a later date.

Morag Irwin, prosecuting for the Health and Safety Executive, said Mr O'Neill drove with the truck door open, which was unsafe.

He had received no formal training in how to use the side-loader truck and had only been driving it full-time for three months and part-time for nine months.

Miss Irwin said a stack of wood near the store room entrance gave vehicles little room to manoeuvre.

She added that an uneven road surface near the ramp and skip was not suitable for side-loader trucks to drive on.

She also said the company had no transport management plan to make sure workers could move around safely.

She added: "Transport is the biggest cause of fatal accidents in workplaces. About 70 people are killed annually and there are 1,500 major injuries."

Peter Atkinson, the solicitor for the company, said it accepted it had failed in some of its safety duties.

But he said measures had now been taken to ensure nothing similar could happen again, both at Huddersfield and the company's 29 other sites.

He added: "The company takes very seriously its responsibilities for health and safety. It bitterly regrets the serious injuries sustained by Mr O'Neill."

Mr O'Neill has continued to work for Howarth Timber Group, although not as a driver.

The magistrates did not award him compensation, because he is pursuing a claim through the civil courts.