$90,000 fine after falling slabs of porcelain leave worker a quadriplegic

A Cheltenham marble and granite distributor has been convicted and fined $90,000 after a young storeman was crushed under 22 sheets of porcelain, leaving him a quadriplegic.


W.K. Marble and Granite Pty Ltd was found guilty of failing to provide a safe system of work, by failing to provide information and instructions to employees to enable them to perform their work in a way that was without risk to health and safety.

They were also ordered to pay costs of $13,728.

The Melbourne Magistrates court heard that the 25-year-old storeman and a co-worker were preparing to unload sheets of porcelain off three wooden A-frames when the incident occurred on February 8, 2016.

The pair had cut the PET strapping that held the porcelain to the A frames when a sheet from the first frame tipped onto the second, causing a domino effect that knocked the sheets to the ground.

The storeman, who was standing between two of the frames at the time, was struck on the head and knocked to the ground before 22 sheets, each weighing 80kg, fell on top of him.

He sustained a C4 spinal cord injury, leaving him with no feeling from the chest down.
The court heard that a retaining strap should have been used to ensure the slabs were still secured to the A frames prior to the PET strapping being cut.

It heard that wooden A frames could twist during transportation and that the frame that triggered the incident appeared to be on an angle that would have caused sheets to be sitting in a more vertical position, increasing the likelihood that they would fall outwards.

WorkSafe Executive Director of Health and Safety, Marnie Williams, said the tragic incident highlighted the need for employers to think through all aspects of a complex task, especially when they involved the transportation and storage of dangerously heavy items.

“Any plan that involves workers handling large, heavy objects which are unsecured and effectively balancing on racks is a flawed one,” Ms Williams said.

“The worker injured in this incident was lucky not to have been killed but the serious nature of his injury has irrevocably altered the course of his life, and the lives of his family and friends,” she said.

Safety measures for the handling of heavy loads should include:

  • Ensuring support frames are provided and maintained.
  • Ensuring loads and support frames are inspected for movement or damage prior to removing restraints.
  • Ensuring workers never stand in the drop zone of an unsecured or suspended load.
  • Developing a safe operating procedure (SOP) which is then implemented, monitored and enforced.
  • Eliminating or reducing the need for manual handling.