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Prosecution Details

Offender Sontax Australia (1988) Pty Ltd (ACN 009 180 278)


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Charge Charge Number Offence Date Date Convicted Regulation Section Penalty Provision Penalty Imposed Date Sentenced
1 AR2896/12 17 April 2009 24th April 2012 3A(2)(b)(i) $18,750.00 24th April 2012
Description of Breach(es)

Being an employer, failed, so far as was practicable, to provide and maintain a working environment in which its employees were not exposed to hazards, contrary to sections 19(1) and 19A(3) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act 1984.

Background Details

The Accused operated a warehouse located at 20 Baile Road in Canning Vale, its principal business activity being the storage and distribution of hardware products.  At the time, the Accused employed approximately 40 employees.

The warehouse has separate areas for incoming goods and dispatch.

The process for dispatch of goods begins with employees who retrieve product located within the racking systems of the warehouse. Goods are collected and packaged onto pallets which are then wrapped in plastic prior to being consigned for transport from the dispatch area of the warehouse.

Trucks enter the dispatch area of the warehouse to be loaded with the pallets by an employee of the Accused operating a forklift. The Accused had leased and operated two gas operated Toyota forklifts at the warehouse.

At approximately 4:15pm on 17 April 2009 a truck arrived to pick up freight. The truck was parked in the dispatch area. The truck driver positioned himself at the right hand rear corner of the parked truck and stayed in that location while his truck was loaded from the right hand side by the Accused's warehouse manager operating one of the forklifts.

During the loading of the truck, a store person, another employee of the Accused, walked backwards into the dispatch area pulling a trolley jack (also called a palletiser) attached to a full pallet that was to be loaded on to the truck.  The store person was aware that the warehouse manager was operating the forklift.  The store person was wearing high visibility clothing.

It was not a usual practice at the warehouse for trolley jacks to be used in the loading area. Occasionally, but not often, this took place when forklifts were also operating in the area.

The store person placed the pallet in the loading area and began to withdraw the trolley jack from the pallet by walking backwards.

At that time, the warehouse manager had just placed a pallet onto the truck and began reversing the forklift at a right angle away from the truck.  He checked his mirrors and looked over his right shoulder prior to reversing.  The forklift was fitted with lights and an audible reversing warning, both of which were operational.

The forklift made contact with the store person, knocking him over. The rear left wheel of the forklift travelled up over the store persons's left leg and came to rest on his calf muscle area briefly before being removed.

The store person suffered a fracture to the base of the fifth metatarsal of his left foot and tissue damage to his left leg and was taken to hospital.

At the time of the accident the warehouse manager did not possess a high risk work licence to operate a forklift.  He had previously held an equivalent certificate for approximately 10 years, but had allowed it to expire a short time before the accident.  He obtained the relevant licence shortly after the accident.

At the time of the accident, the Accused's occupational safety and health policy relevantly provided:

  • Only employees with permits or certificates are permitted to operate motorised forklift trucks
  • When lifting any load, ensure that the area is clear of people and always exercise extreme care to ensure the load has sufficient support to be lifted safely.

It did not provide for an exclusion zone that would ensure separation between forklifts and pedestrians.  Likewise, employees had not been given instructions as to any such exclusion zone.

Subsequent to the accident, all employees of the Accused are instructed that nobody is to walk outside the warehouse while a forklift truck is operating in the dispatch area.

Outcome Summary

The Accused entered a guilty plea and was convicted.

Court Magistrates Court of Western Australia - Armadale
Costs $1090.80

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