The giant meat processing company was fined £12,000 and ordered to pay £4,400 in costs in the wake of the incident in 2010 at its plant in Wiveliscombe, in the south west of England.
Vion Foods UK Ltd, of Livingstone, Scotland, pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Etc. Act 1974.
An investigation by the UK’s Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that a 64-year-old man fell more than two and a half metres breaking ribs and damaging his leg and shoulder muscles after being thrown from the container by a gust of wind.
The accident happened while he was hauling metal sheets from a forklift truck onto the roof of the shipping crate and resulted in the injured man missing seven weeks of work.
The safety watchdog probe concluded that Vion had failed to plan the work properly. No risk assessment was made to ensure a system was in place to prevent a fall. While the task was being supervised by a fellow worker, the HSE said the firm had failed to provide him with adequate training for working at heights.
HSE inspector Kate Leftly said the poor planning and execution of the task by the firm had contributed directly to the incident.
"Any work at height needs to be properly planned and supervised to minimise the risk to workers. If these things are not done, falls can happen all too easily with serious consequences,” she said.
Lefty added: "In this instance, [the worker] did not need to be standing on the shipping container to carry out the work: he could have used a vehicle such as a fork lift to deposit the sheets or he could have worked from a contained elevated platform."
FoodProductionDaily.com contacted Vion for a comment but had received no reply prior to publication.