|Offender||Geraldton Fishermen's Co-operative Ltd|
|Charge||Charge Number||Offence Date||Date Convicted||Regulation||Section||Penalty Provision||Penalty Imposed||Date Sentenced|
|1||GN5211/07||27 December 2005||23rd May 2008||19(1) 19A(2)||3A(3)(b)(i)||$60,000.00||23rd May 2008|
|Description of Breach(es)||
Being an employer, did not so far as was practicable, provide and maintain a working environment in which its employees were not exposed to hazards and by that failure caused its employee serious harm and contravened sections 19(1) and 19A(2) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act 1984.
At all relevant times the material facts were as follows.
The Accused operated a rock lobster processing business and as at December 2005 employed approximately 300 people. The Accused's workplaces included a facility at the Geraldton Fishermen's Wharf where live lobsters were packed and then driven to Perth. The facility was known as the "Lives Facility".
The Accused's employees included a truck driver and a supervisor at the Lives Facility. The supervisor had worked at the Accused's Lives Facility for 13 years. The truck driver had been employed by the Accused for 19 years.
Prior to the accident, the Accused delivered occupational health and safety presentations to employees and induction sessions to new employees. The Accused's forklift operators were required to be appropriately qualified and the Accused ensured that they had "their ticket".
On the morning of 23 December 2005 a truck at the Lives Facility was being loaded with pallets of live lobsters so that the truck driver could drive the truck to Perth.
A pallet jack was always used to move pallets around on the back of the trucks. When the trucks were nearly fully loaded the pallet jack was taken off the back of the trucks so that the last pallets could be loaded. When nearly all of the pallets had been loaded the trolley was stored on the back of the trucks and taken to Perth so that it could be used to move the pallets around the back of the trucks during unloading in Perth.
A forklift was used to move the pallets and the pallet jacks on and off the back of the trucks.
It was commom practice at the Accused's workplace for people to be lifted up on the tines of forklifts for a variety of reasons including accessing the back of trucks and lifting pallet trolleys onto trucks. When forklifts were used to lift people, generally that person stood on a pallet that had been placed over the tines of the forklift rather than directly on the tines. The persons who did this included the Accused's supervisors and managers.
On 27 December 2005 the truck driver stood on the tines of a forklift with the pallet trolley, and asked the supervisor to lift him up onto the back of a truck so that he could load the pallet trolley onto the back of the truck.
As it was common practice to stand on a pallet over the forklift tines, the supervisor suggested to the truck driver that he do this. The only available pallet was a heavy one - the type not usually used for this purpose. The truck driver replied that he did not want to use it, and again asked to be lifted up with the trolley.
The supervisor got into the forklift and drove the truck driver and the pallet trolley over to the back of the truck and lifted the truck driver and the pallet trolley up on the tines of the forklift until the front wheels of the pallet trolley were about 5 cm over the back of the truck. The supervisor then lowered the forklift tines onto the back of the truck.
The truck driver then fell off the tines of the forklift onto the ground. He struck his head on the bitumen surface and was conveyed to hospital. Approximately 10 days later, on 7 January 2006, he died. A doctor's report of 8 May 2006 concluded that the cause of death was from a head injury.
When the truck was not fully loaded there was no need for the truck driver or anyone else to accompany the pallet jack when forklifts lifted them up onto the back of the trucks. When the truck was fully loaded the pallet jack could only be put on the back of the truck if a person was lifted on the forklift tines with it, because the space on the back of the truck was so small that the person on the tines needed to manoeuvre the pallet trolley onto the truck.
A sticker at eye level on the mast of each forklift indicated that people were not to be lifted on the tines of forklifts.
Since at least 2004 WorkSafe has published educative material which explicitly warns of the hazard of lifting people up on forklifts when the forklift is not fitted with a man cage, work box designed to allow a person to be safely lifted up by a forklift. These documents include the Code of Practice titled "Prevention of Falls at Workplaces" and a Guideance Note titled "Working Safely with Forklifts".
On 29 December 2006 a WorkSafe Inspector issued a notice to the accused which prohibited it from allowing its employees to lift each other up on the tines of a forklift unless the forklift was fitted with a seat specifically designed for a passenger.
Since the accident the Accused has:
(a) instructed its employees not to be lifted on forklift tines even if there was a pallet over tines;
(b) arranged for a pallet jack to be at the truck's destination if the truck was so full that a forklift could not be used to load a pallet trolley into its trucks;
(c) issued an internal memo to its employees dated 30 December 2006 and required that they sign it. The memo provided:
(i) no GFC employee is allowed to operate a forklift unless they have completed an appropriate forklift operators course;
(ii) that practice of passengers being on forklifts not wearing a seatbelt is prohibited;
(iii) the practice of passengers riding on a forklift other than on a seat specifically designed for a passenger is prohibited.
|Court||Magistrate's Court of Western Australia - Geraldton|
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