Company and director fined after worker crushed

A brick manufacturing company and its director have been convicted and ordered to pay more than $50,000 after an employee was left seriously injured in a forklift incident.

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Published: 13 January 2022

Enviroflame Firelogs (Australia) Pty Ltd was sentenced in the Ballarat Magistrates' Court yesterday after pleading guilty to one charge under the Occupational Health and Safety Act for failing, so far as was reasonably practicable, to provide a working environment that is safe and without risks to health by failing to reduce or eliminate the risk of powered mobile plant colliding with pedestrians.

The company was fined $40,000 and also ordered to pay costs of $5,222.

Director Frederick Coulter pleaded guilty to one charge under the Act for failing, as director, to take reasonable care. He was fined $7,500.  

The court heard that the employee suffered musculoskeletal injuries and underwent surgery after he was crushed between the forklift and a pallet that was against a wall in July 2019. 

Coulter, who was operating the forklift, initially reversed and hit a hydraulic ram leaning against the wall. He then drove the forklift forward and asked the employee to pick up the ram he had just hit. 

As the employee was doing so, the director reversed the forklift into the man, pinning him and stalling the forklift. 

At the time of the incident, Coulter did not hold a valid forklift licence. 

A WorkSafe investigation found no form of traffic management was in place to prevent collisions between forklifts and pedestrians. 

WorkSafe Executive Director of Health and Safety Narelle Beer said there was no excuse for manufacturing workplaces to be operating without traffic management systems. 

"If sites don’t have proper systems in place to prevent machinery and pedestrian collisions, the risk of serious injury or even death is dangerously high. In this terrible case, we've seen that risk eventuate," Dr Beer said. 

"WorkSafe won’t hesitate to prosecute employers who fail in their duty to maintain a workplace that, as far as is reasonably practicable, is free of risk to health and safety."

Employers using mobile plant should ensure:

  • A traffic management plan is in place for pedestrians and powered mobile plant and that it is reviewed and updated as appropriate.
  • Pedestrians are separated from moving machinery and that an effective communication system between operators, transport contractors and ground staff is in place.
  • Signage is in place and barriers are erected where appropriate.
  • Visibility issues are identified and controlled, particularly if lighting is poor.
  • Workers operating equipment have the appropriate high risk work licences, as required.
  • Machinery and vehicles are regularly inspected and maintained by a suitably qualified person.
  • Employees and health and safety representatives are consulted about health and safety issues.

To learn more about developing a forklift traffic management plan, click here.