Manufacturer fined after worker paralysed in crush incident

Friday, 24 February, 2023

Manufacturer fined after worker paralysed in crush incident

Benchtop manufacturer and installer Group Manufacturing Victoria Pty Ltd has been convicted and fined $85,000 after a worker was paralysed after being crushed by a 250–280 kg stone slab. The company pleaded guilty to a single charge of failing to provide or maintain systems of work that were, so far as was reasonably practicable, safe and without risks to health. The company, which trades as Willis Bros, was also ordered to pay costs of $4406.

The worker and a colleague had waited several hours for a third person to help them install a 3 x 2 m kitchen island stone slab at a Wyndham Vale construction site in October 2019. When this worker failed to show, the duo attempted to complete the job. After the slab was unclamped from an A-frame trolley on a ute tray, it fell suddenly, crushing the worker. He suffered traumatic injuries, including a severed spinal cord and broken back and neck, and will remain a paraplegic for life.

The court heard the manual handling system of work and the Safe Work Method State that Willis Bros had in place on the day of the incident were inadequate. It was also found that management had rejected regular requests from its workers to provide mechanical aids to help move slabs. The company also fostered a culture where employees felt pressured, under threat of termination, to complete tasks by set deadlines, even if that meant contravening occupational health and safety requirements.

WorkSafe Executive Director of Health and Safety Narelle Beer said the injured worker would never walk again because his employer failed to implement correct procedures and promote a safety-first culture. “The horrific injuries this worker suffered have irreparably changed his life and impacted his family and colleagues. This incident need not have happened and is an unfortunate reminder for employers as to the critical importance of having correct procedures and safe systems of work in place,” Beer said.

Before objects are released from any transport restraints, WorkSafe Victoria advises workers to ensure the handling process has been planned and understood by everyone involved, and that no person is in the fall shadow. Lifting gear (such as shackles, cables and clamps) must also be used in conjunction with a forklift or crane, must be compatible with any other equipment used, must have the appropriate rating, and must be checked regularly by a competent or licensed person in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions.

If A-list frames are used to store objects, workers must ensure that the A-frame sloping arms are leaning at an angle of between 4° to 8°. The angle of the base or leg should be 90° to the A-frame. Any packing between objects must not reduce the angle of the object to less than the A-frame angle. Any A-frames designed and used for transport that arrive without engineered load ratings should not be used for storage. Objects should be transferred and stored on systems engineered for storage.

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