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Workplace accident

Man was crushed to death beneath forty tonnes of cheese, inquest hears

Robert Ceremuga died after the incident at VP Foods in Finglas, Dublin 11.

A 32-YEAR-OLD man died after he was crushed beneath forty tonnes of cheese in a workplace accident, an inquest has heard.

Robert Ceremuga from Littlepace View, Clonee, Dublin 15 suffered catastrophic crush injuries when a shelf rack collapsed at a cold storage warehouse where he worked in Finglas, Dublin 11.

He died on 28 November 2013 after the shelf rack he was standing next to became unstable and collapsed, an inquest into his death heard.

The accident happened in a cold store-room at VP Foods, Jamestown Business Park, Finglas, Dublin 11.

Up to 80 tonnes of cheese were stored in pallets stacked in six bays on shelf racks measuring 15m long, the inquest heard.

A forklift driver was working in the storeroom and had removed between thirty and forty pallets of cheese from the lower shelves on the morning of 28 November 2013.

The driver had only been working for the company for a number of weeks and had no formal forklift training, Health and Safety Inspector Frank Kerins said.

He was sitting in the forklift when Robert Ceremuga entered the cold store with a clipboard and asked if he had taken his break.

It’s not clear if the forklift struck the shelf or if the racks buckled under the weight of the pallets stacked on the higher shelves, Mr Kerins said.

“The whole thing started to sway and the pallets started coming down… it was all top-heavy, once it buckled, it was not able to take the weight. Forty pallets came down. The whole room was a mangled mess of pallets,” Mr Kerins said.

The forklift driver jumped out of the cab and ran from the room but Mr Cerebuga had no time to react, the court heard. “It all came down very quickly,” Mr Kerins said.

Garda Keith McGrath said the deceased was found slumped against a wall in the store-room.

“There was a huge volume of boxes scattered around the store-room with shelving for pallets of cheese that had collapsed,” Garda McGrath said.

Each pallet contained one tonne in weight of cheese blocks that weighed 25kg each, the court heard.

The cause of death was crush injuries to the head and chest according to a postmortem report carried out by State Pathologist Professor Marie Cassidy.

The jury returned a verdict of industrial accident and recommended that forklift training be provided to all operators and that all racking systems should be emptied before any adjustments are made to them.

The man’s daughter was just four months old when he died, his wife Maria said in a statement through her solicitor Kieran Johnston.

“She was his pride and joy. I lost my best friend and my entire world. He was ambitious and hardworking, he was an exceptional man. I think about him everyday.”

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Louise Roseingrave
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