Prestige Truck Bodies (Aust) Pty Ltd was sentenced in the Melbourne County Court today after pleading guilty to a single charge of failing to provide or maintain safe systems of work, so far as was reasonably practicable.
The court heard that in its production process, the company used fibreglass and particle board panels that arrived at the workplace in shipping containers, packed in a manner that meant they could only be unloaded manually.
In January 2020, five workers, including the manager, were emptying stacks of panels weighing more than 3.5 tonnes in total from a container. The panels had not been securely packed and had become loose in transit.
As the first panel was being removed, several others fell and crushed the manager against the container wall.
The court heard that it was reasonably practicable for Prestige Truck Bodies to have implemented a system of work that required the supplier to pack panels in a manner that would allow them to be unloaded using machinery, such as a forklift, and to return any containers that were not packed in this manner.
WorkSafe Executive Director of Health and Safety Narelle Beer said the risks of removing heavy loads from shipping containers were well known and employers must ensure they have a safe system of work in place.
"Once a load begins to fall, there's often no opportunity to escape for anyone inside a container, and the consequences are all too often deadly," Dr Beer said.
"Duty holders should never allow workers to attempt to unload a shipping container that has not been safely packed, and WorkSafe will continue to prosecute those who put workers in harm's way."
To manage risks when unloading containers:
- Consult with the supplier on the best shipping configuration for ease and safety of unloading.
- Have a system of work for safe unloading that includes assessing if the load can be safely unloaded and the sequence of unloading.
- Ensure the container is sitting level to reduce the risk of panels, slabs or other objects becoming unstable and toppling and check the outside for damage that may indicate content has shifted.
- Before opening or releasing transport restraints, consider if the use of a container door safety strap or equipment to prop or support contents that may have shifted is needed to prevent toppling.
- Ensure that no one is in the fall shadow of any object at any time and use equipment to minimise workers' interaction with contents.
- Ensure that any engineering controls, for example additional load restraints, are introduced from outside the fall shadow.
- Ensure that lifting gear, such as shackles, cables and clamps, is regularly checked by a competent or licensed person in accordance with manufacturer's instructions.
- Ensure any forklift being used has the appropriate load rating for all fitted attachments and is being used as intended.