Truck-body builder fined after shipping container death

Thursday, 27 April, 2023

Truck-body builder fined after shipping container death

WorkSafe Victoria has convicted and fined Carrum Downs truck-body manufacturer Prestige Trucks (Aust) Pty Ltd $225,000 after a manager was crushed and killed inside a shipping container. The company pleaded guilty to a single charge of failing to provide or maintain safe systems of work, so far as was reasonably practicable. The court heard that in its production process, the company used fibreglass and particle board panels that arrived at the workplace in shipping containers, packed in a manner that meant they could only be unloaded manually.

In January 2020, five workers, including the manager, were emptying stacks of panels weighing more than 3.5 tonnes in total from a container. The panels had not been securely packed and had become loose in transit. As the first panel was being removed, several others fell and crushed the manager against the container wall.

The court heard that it was reasonably practicable for the company to have implemented a system of work that required the supplier to pack panels in a manner that would allow them to be unloaded using machinery, such as a forklift, and to return any containers that were not packed in this manner. WorkSafe Executive Director of Health and Safety Narelle Beer said the risks of removing heavy loads from shipping containers are well-known and encouraged employers to ensure they implement a safe system of work.

“Once a load begins to fall, there’s often no opportunity to escape for anyone inside a container, and the consequences are all too often deadly. Duty holders should never allow workers to attempt to unload a shipping container that has not been safely packed, and WorkSafe will continue to prosecute those who put workers in harm’s way,” Beer said.

To manage risks when unloading containers, workers should consult with the supplier on the best shipping configuration for ease and safety of unloading; have a system of work for safe unloading that includes assessing the sequence of unloading and if the load can be safely unloaded; and ensure that the container is sitting level to reduce the risk of panels, slabs or other objects becoming unstable and toppling.

Before opening or releasing transport restraints, workers should consider if the use of a container door safety strap or equipment to prop or support contents that may have shifted is needed to prevent toppling. Workers are also advised to ensure that no one is in the fall shadow of any object at any time and to use equipment to minimise workers’ interaction with contents. Any engineering controls, such as additional load restraints, must be introduced from outside the fall shadow.

Workers should also ensure that lifting gear, such as shackles, cables and clamps, is regularly checked by a competent or licensed person in accordance with manufacturer’s instructions; they should also ensure that any forklift being used has the appropriate load rating for all fitted attachments and is being used as intended.

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