Furniture company fined over lift truck rollover

Monday, 24 November, 2008

New Idea Furniture was recently fined $40,750 in Perth Magistrates Court over an incident in which a lift truck overturned and seriously injured two men.

The company faced two charges of failing to provide and maintain a safe workplace for an employee and a contractor and another charge of failing to provide evidence that the operator of the lift truck was a competent operator.

In 2005, a painter was contracted to paint the six-metre high external walls of the company’s warehouse and showroom. Scaffolding was to be provided but wasn’t available for several days, so to get the work started the painter was provided with an elevating work platform (EWP) to reach the high panels. The painter was informed that a company employee would operate the EWP while he worked from the platform with a safety harness.

When close to its maximum extension height, the EWP became unstable and overbalanced away from the building. It was being operated on the sloping surface of a car park contrary to clear instructions on the machine to use it only on hard level surfaces. The painter was thrown onto the bitumen, while the EWP operator remained in the operator’s box throughout the fall. Both men were seriously injured.

WorkSafe WA Commissioner Nina Lyhne said the case serves as a reminder that machinery should only be used for its intended purpose and that operators must be properly licensed or trained: “The machine itself has clearly displayed instructions for its use and these were disregarded for the sake of convenience. The operator’s manual clearly stated how the machine should be used and its limitations, but the employer did not have a copy of the manufacturer’s instructions available for use by employees.

“This case illustrates once again the extreme importance of ensuring that employees are properly trained and/or licensed to operate plant in the workplace, and that the manufacturer’s instructions are strictly adhered to at all times.”


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