Business fined following employee’s skull fracture while operating forklift
A business that specialises in supplying educational materials throughout Australia has been sentenced and fined in the Holland Park Magistrates Court for breaching section 32 of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (The Act) after a forklift operator sustained a significant injury resulting in considerable time off work.
The 27 year old worker, who had only been employed as a casual for three months, was operating a forklift in the warehouse dispatch area, suffered a fractured skull when he was operating a forklift alone in the warehouse. While unloading empty pallets onto a racking system, four of the unsecured pallets, each weighing around 35 kilograms, fell almost six metres.
At least one of the pallets struck his head, requiring him to undergo surgery, hospitalisation for eight nights, and required him to be absent from work for an extended period.
Although the operator held a license to operate the forklift, the business acknowledged that they only provided some ‘on the job’ training and used ‘unwritten procedures’ for the operation of the plant. Critically, they failed to undertake a risk assessment in relation to the use of the forklift, nor had in place a safe operating procedure (SOP) to provide for the movement of pallets within the warehouse.
Following the incident, the business introduced SOPs for the storage of items within the warehouse. They acknowledged that there were steps they could have reasonably implemented to reduce the risk to the forklift operator and recognised that their failures exposed workers to a risk of death or sustaining serious injury.
In determining an appropriate penalty, acting Magistrate Sue Ganasan noted the need for general deterrence.
She acknowledged that the defendant submitted an early guilty plea, had no prior WHS convictions, willingly co-operated throughout the length of the investigation, showed remorse, and continued to supply and employ the injured worker.
The acting Magistrate imposed a fine of $70,000 on the business.
The case highlights the fundamental need for employers to have safe systems of work in place, including adequate procedures and training for all plant operators.
For queries about safety, prosecutions, or other employment questions, please contact Dean Cameron at Workforce Advisory Lawyers – We Know Employment Law on 1300 WAL LAW, 0417 622 178 or via email to email@example.com
Disclaimer: This information is provided as general advice on workplace relations and employment law. It does not constitute legal advice, and it is always advisable to seek further information regarding specific workplace issues. Liability limited by a scheme approved under professional standards legislation.