Convicted and fined $80,000 at the Frankston Magistrates Court on July 15 by Magistrate Ross Betts, the company pleaded guilty to one charge laid under the Occupational Health and Safety Act.
Costs of $2,787 were also ordered against the company.
Magistrate Betts was told a forklift was being used to pull a fence post out of the ground at Tait Timber and Hardware’s Somerville outlet in March 2009.
WorkSafe told the court two workers attached a chain to a fence post and the forklift, but the chain broke as the machine moved forward causing it to whip back and hit one man knocking him two to three metres.
He suffered multiple rib fractures, a collapsed lung, bruising to the heart, chest and torso. He was in hospital for two weeks and did not return to work for about three months.
WorkSafe’s investigation found:
- other types of equipment such as that used in earthmoving would have been more suitable to dig out or remove the post at a cost of around $400
- it was neither an industry standard, or an acceptable system of work to use a forklift to attempt to tow, pull or drag in the circumstances of that day and
- the entry where the work was being done should have been closed to pedestrian and vehicular traffic
Magistrate Betts said the OHS breach was serious and that the injury severely affected the injured man and his family.
He said that had the company not pleaded guilty, he would have fined it $120,000.
WorkSafe’s General Manager (Operations) for Health and Safety, Lisa Sturzenegger, said the incident showed the serious impact of not properly planning work and identifying risks in any workplace.
“Employers have a legal obligation to ensure the workplace is as safe as reasonably practicable and to ensure the work is done in a safe way.
“As this case shows, not doing that can lead to serious personal and commercial costs.
This is yet another example of ensuring that you use the correct equipment for the job and not make do with what is at the worksite.
The basics of safety are simple. The right tools for the job, well maintained equipment used by skilled and competent people are the way to maintain and ultimately improve safety at any workplace.
WorkSafe produces a wide range of publications on safe forklift use which can be found online at www.worksafe.vic.gov.au.
These include: ‘Forklift Safety: Reducing the Risk’, ‘Guidelines for powered mobile plant’; ‘Forklift Safety - Don’t Learn it by Accident’ and ‘A Guidebook of Industrial Traffic Management & Forklift Safety’.
The charge - Section 21(1)&(2)(a) of the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004:
- An employer must, so far as is reasonably practicable, provide and maintain for employees of the employer a working environment that is safe and without risks to health.
- Without limiting sub-section (1), an employer contravenes that sub-section if the employer fails to do any of the following-
(a) provide or maintain plant or systems of work that are, so far as is reasonably practicable, safe and without risks to health.