Company charged over serious forklift injury

Thursday, 02 July, 2009

A man remains in a permanent vegetative state nearly three years after a 700 kg crate of glass fell on him as it was moved after being unloaded from a truck at Dandenong in Melbourne’s south-east.

Judge Chettle convicted and fined Asixa Pty Ltd $250,000 after it pleaded guilty to two workplace health and safety charges as a result of the 2006 incident. He said although safety improvements were made after the incident, they should have made sooner.

The injured man was an employee of labour hire company Black & White Recruitment Solutions, but was a deemed employee of Asixa. He was using a forklift to unload the glass from a truck at Asixa’s warehouse.

Black & White provided occupational health and safety support including OHS audits, but the injured man was driving a forklift without a certificate of competency to operate the machine and he had not been given information, instruction or training on the forklift, which was introduced to the workplace the day he was hurt.

WorkSafe prohibits the movement of glass packs without an appropriate lifting device and forklift operation without operators holding an appropriate certificate of competency.

Asixa made safety improvements after the event including assessment and training of forklift operators, new risk assessments and induction policies, training for unsecured or problem freight as well as first aid training for several employees.

WorkSafe’s Executive Director John Merritt said the disastrous outcome for the injured man and his family was a warning to everyone that the potential for workplace deaths was not the only issue to be addressed: “Apart from the deaths, every year there are amputations of hands, fingers, arms and legs, people end up in wheelchairs, brain damaged or living with the assistance of machines.

“In terms of the outcome for the individual and their family, this is one of the worst cases that WorkSafe has had to deal with.

“Forklifts are among the most common and dangerous pieces of equipment in Victorian workplaces yet serious incidents still occur, frequently to people with inadequate training.”

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