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Prosecution Details

Offender Charles Watsford Lindsay Thomson
Trading Name Ford Thomson International


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Charge Charge Number Offence Date Date Convicted Regulation Section Penalty Provision Penalty Imposed Date Sentenced
1 PE4464/09 18 September 2006 11th May 2009 3A(2)(a)(i) $15,000.00 11th May 2009
Description of Breach(es)

Being a labour hire client under a labour hire arrangement with a labour hire agent, where work was carried out for remuneration by workers for the Accused in the course of the Accused's trade or business, failed to provide and maintain, so far as is practicable, a working environment in which workers were not exposed to hazards, being matters over which the Accused had the capacity to exercise control: contrary to sections 23F, 19(1) and 19A(3) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act 1984.

Background Details

Charles Watsford Lindsay Thomson (t/as Ford Thomson International) operates a furniture importing and wholesale business from 6-8 Mumford Place, Balcatta ("the workplace"). The business is overseen by a General Manager who handles the day to day matters of the business.

The business is divided into 2 parts, the storage of the furniture at 6 Mumford Place and the fabrication of the furniture at 8 Mumford Place. The premises are high ceilinged warehouse units with racking systems used to store the furniture. The furniture is imported "flat packed" in sea containers.

The Accused engages labour hire workers supplied by Blue Collar People. Blue Collar People is the trading name for Cloisters Security Pty Ltd (CAN 009 262 935). This labour hire arrangement has been in place since 2004 when the Accused entered into an agreement with Blue Collar People. Blue Collar People paid the workers their wages and invoiced the Accused for their services. The Accused then paid Blue Collar People.

In 2006 a labourer was employed by Blue Collar People and he performed work for Ford Thomson International in August and September 2006. The labourer was an Irish citizen who was at that time backpacking around Australia. The system of storing stock was to flat pack the stock into the racks and access that stock as required. This required workers to be raised to the level of the required racks to pick stock. Ladders and forklifts were used for this purpose. The highest level of racks was 3.4 metres above the ground. The racks had 3 levels (bottom (ie ground), middle and top).

On 18 September 2006 the labourer attended the workplace and was assisting a second employee pick furniture stock from the racks at the workplace (6 Mumford Place). This employee was a former Blue Collar People worker who had subsequently been employed directly by Ford Thomson International. The second employee was driving a TCM 15 forklift and the labourer was assisting him pick stock. To pick stock from the top racks the labourer stood on a pallet on the tynes of the forklift and was then raised to the required height. The pallet was not secured to the forklift nor was the labourer supplied any other fall arrest system. This was the usual method the second employee used to pick raised stock and the method he had been instructed in by his supervisors at Ford Thomson International.

As the labourer was loading "tallboy" units onto the pallet from the top racks he was raised approximately 3 metres above the hard concrete floor. The two men had already performed this task at least once that day already. As the labourer was loading the stock the pallet moved on the tynes of the forklift causing the stock to fall to the floor. The labourer also fell, breaking his ankle and elbow. He did not return to the workplace or return to work for Blue Collar People.

Despite 2 purpose built workcages that could have been fitted to forklifts being available at the workplace the usual course of work appears to have been to use pallets in this fashion. The Accused, through his General Manager, was aware of this practice and ought to have taken steps to have prohibited this practice. Furthermore publicly available WorkSafe publications such as the guidance note Working with Forklifts and the Code of Practice: Prevention of Falls from Heights also outline the dangers of this system of work. The operator's manual for the forklift being used also outlined the hazards of a fall from height if used in this manner.

An alternate practicable system of work would have been to store stock in a manner that did not require workers to be raised to access that stock. Subsequent to this accident the workplace was redesigned such that stock is now stored on pallets and the pallets are raised and lowered as required and the desired stock then picked directly from the pallet. A further alternative may have been to use purpose built order picking lift trucks in this situation.

Outcome Summary

Plead Guilty

Court Perth Magistrate's Court
Costs $1,057.70

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