Manufacturer fined $85,000 after worker paralysed

A benchtop manufacturer and installer has been convicted and fined $85,000 after a worker was left paralysed after being crushed by a 250-280kg stone slab.


Group Manufacturing Victoria Pty Ltd was sentenced in the Broadmeadows Magistrates' Court last week after pleading guilty to a single charge of failing to provide or maintain systems of work that were, so far as was reasonable practicable, safe and without risks to health.

The company, which trades as Willis Bros, was also ordered to pay costs of $4,406.

The court heard the injured worker and a colleague waited several hours for a third person to help them install a 3m x 2m kitchen island stone slab at a Wyndham Vale construction site in October 2019. When this worker failed to show, the duo attempted to complete the job.

After the slab was unclamped from an A-frame trolley on a ute tray, it fell suddenly, crushing the injured worker. He suffered traumatic injuries, including a severed spinal cord, broken back and neck and will remain a paraplegic for life.

The court heard the manual handling system of work and the Safe Work Method Statement that Willis Bros had in place on the day of the incident were inadequate.

It was also found that management had rejected regular requests from its workers to provide mechanical aids to assist with moving slabs.

Furthermore, the court heard the company had fostered a culture where employees felt pressured, under threat of termination, to complete tasks by set deadlines, even if that meant contravening the occupational health and safety requirements.

WorkSafe Executive Director of Health and Safety Narelle Beer said the injured worker would never walk again because his employer failed to implement correct procedures and promote a safety-first culture.

"The horrific injuries this worker suffered have irreparably changed his life and impacted his family and colleagues," Dr Beer said.

"This incident need not have happened and is an unfortunate reminder for employers as to the critical importance of having correct procedures and safe systems of work in place."

Before objects are released from any transport restraints, ensure:

  • The handling process has been planned and understood by everyone involved.
  • No person is in the fall shadow.
  • Lifting gear (such as shackles, cables and clamps) is used in conjunction with a fork lift or crane, is compatible with any other equipment used, has the appropriate rating, and be regularly checked by a competent or licensed person in accordance with manufacturer's instructions.

If A-frames are used to store objects, ensure:

  • The A-frame sloping arms are leaning at an angle of between 4º to 8º. The angle of the base or leg should be 90° to the A-frame. Any packing between objects must not reduce the angle of the object to less than the A-frame angle.
  • Any A-frames designed and used for transport that arrive without engineered load ratings are not used for storage. Objects should be transferred and stored on systems engineered specifically for storage.