Company fined after casual worker injured in forklift incident

A recent WorkSafe prosecution highlights the dangers of forklifts. 

Delacombe company Enviroflame Firelogs, a manufacturer of compressed bricks using recycled timber salvaged from pallets and other timber. These are produced and packaged for sale as fire wood.

Frederick George Coulter, a company Director and Secretary, also regularly works at the workplace operating machinery and providing instruction to the casual worker employed to do various tasks such as wrapping and stacking pallets, operating forklifts and general labouring. At the time he was the only employee of Enviroflame.

On 3 July 2019 the worker was crushed by a forklift being operated by Coulter, and sustained various musculo-skeletal injuries. In the raw materials storage area, Coulter reversed the forklift and hit a spare hydraulic ram leaning against a wall. After moving the forklift three metres forwards, he told the worker to pick up the ram. As he was doing so, Coulter reversed the forklift, pinning him between the forklift and a pallet which was against the wall. 

The worker was taken to hospital by ambulance. He underwent surgery to place pins in his left ankle and sustained badly bruised toes. At the time of the incident, Coulter did not hold a valid forklift licence.

WorkSafe Inspectors found there was no physical separation or other forms of traffic management between forklifts and pedestrians at the workplace to prevent collisions. Risks included a risk of mobile plant colliding with pedestrians or other mobile plants resulting in serious injury. 

Enviroflame were unable to produce work procedures, policies or other documents as no documents existed. There was no traffic management plan or other work procedures in place at the time of the incident.

The company pleaded guilty and was fined $40,000 plus $5,222 costs. Coulter was also prosecuted and fined $7,500. In making its decisions, the Court noted the company and Coulter's guilty pleas, lack of priors and unlikelihood of reoffending, Coulter's personal circumstances, including his age, poor health and financial circumstances and that the company was no longer operating and was seeking deregistration.

Near-miss leads to $25,000 fine for unsafe lifting

A heavy-duty trailer manufacturer has been convicted and fined after a trailer fell while being lifted, narrowly missing three workers.

MaxiTRANS Australia Pty Ltd was sentenced in the Ballarat Magistrates' Court on 18 January after pleading guilty to failing to maintain systems of work that are, as far as is reasonably practicable, safe and without risk to health.

It was fined $25,000 plus $5,742 in costs.

The court heard that on 20 June 2018, three workers were using two cranes to lift a partially constructed trailer at its Wendouree premises. Workers usually did this by attaching chains to lifting lugs, which were fixed to the trailer using a magnetic drill.

That day, however, the magnetic drills were being repaired and so the workers looped a chain and hook around rails at the front and rear of the trailer. As a worker was placing a support stand beneath the raised trailer, it fell, hitting the stand, rolling to the right and narrowly missing all three workers.

WorkSafe Executive Director of Health and Safety Narelle Beer said WorkSafe would not hesitate to prosecute employers who fail in their duty of care to maintain a working environment that is safe and without risks to health.

"This was a significant failure, which could easily have been catastrophic for the three workers involved," Dr Beer said. "The risks associated with working with cranes are well-known and there is no excuse for failing to ensure that safe systems are in place to protect workers."
Read more, including advice on how to manage the risks of cranes: WorkSafe media release

To check for more Victorian prosecutions before the next edition, go to WorkSafe Victoria's Prosecution Result Summaries and Enforceable Undertakings webpage. 

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