Warehouse accidents | Legal consequences2020-09-21T04:21:56+00:00

Despite strict work safety regulations, workplace accidents are relatively common in warehouses and distribution centres. From pedestrians interacting with forklift operations to overloaded pallets & racking, some warehouse workers feel pressured to throw caution to the wind for the sake of productivity. That’s why, unsurprisingly, warehouses are considered one of the more dangerous workplaces in Australia.

Workers involved in warehouse accidents often suffer serious injuries and sometimes , in the worst case scenario, death. Furthermore, besides destroying lives, warehouse accidents can also tarnish a company’s reputation and come with a significant financial cost in respect of fines and litigation.

They say that those who don’t know their history are doomed to repeat it. So, just to ensure your workers are out of harm’s way, here are a few cases that will help you learn from other people’s mistakes.

Recycling company fined over multiple work safety incidents

Bay Trusses & Frames Pty Ltd – fined $300,000

On 11 July 2017, 65-year-old Malcolm Fing fractured his neck and suffered a serious brain injury when he fell from the back of a truck that was being loaded. The accident happened while Mr. Fing assisted a forklift driver to load timber house frames onto his truck’s trailer.

An investigation by SafeWork found out that this wasn’t the first time such an incident happened. In fact, another worker, Lance Bligh, died in almost the exact same circumstances six years prior, after climbing on a truck trailer to direct the loading of the cargo.

Forklift with tines
Pedestrian and Forklift Interactions must be managed as a component of a warehouse safety program.

Despite the tragedy, the company had no system or policy in place that prohibited pedestrians from climbing on trailers while they were being loaded or unloaded.

That’s why the Beresfield District Court fined $300,000 to Bay Trusses & Frames Pty Ltd for breaching section 32/19(1) of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011.

What can we learn from this warehouse accident?

Although pedestrian assistance can ease loading operations, they can present with a range of risks the moment a worker gets on a trailer or anywhere near a forklift operation zone. However, by using positive communications through radios and hand signals, pedestrians can direct forklift drivers while keeping themselves out of harm’s way.

Find more info about this case at: https://www.newcastleherald.com.au/story/6804497/beresfield-company-fined-300000-for-workers-fall-six-years-after-death-in-similar-circumstances/

RELATED : Work health and safety obligations and how to manage them

Zammit Ham and Bacon Curers Pty Ltd – fined $75,000

Sometimes accidents can happen due to a lack of physical barriers. This was the case in Pendle Hill when, on 7 September 2017, a forklift toppled over after a wheel fell from the loading dock onto the concrete ramp.

The worker – who wasn’t wearing a seatbelt – fell off the vehicle and was crushed between the forklift and the ramp. After an excavator freed him, the injured worker was rushed for the hospital where he underwent emergency surgery.

Investigators found that while the worker wasn’t wearing his seat belt the lack of a guardrail along the edge of the dock was the main cause of the accident.

Furthermore, although the company had existing safety policies and fitted its workers with protective gear, little was done to train and supervise their forklift drivers.

That’s why Zammit Ham and Bacon Curers Pty Ltd was found guilty of breaching section 32/19(1) of the Work Health and Safety Act of 2011 and fined $75,000.

Forklift operation around loading docks can present with a range of risks.

What can we learn from this forklift accident?

Safety training must be ongoing and should never stop inside the classroom’s walls. Even the best safety policies will fail if they aren’t implemented on a consistent basis.

Only by understanding inherent risks, providing regular training and adding extra layers of safety supervision can warehouses hope to reduce their accident rates.

Find more info about this case at: https://insidefmcg.com.au/2020/05/19/zammit-ham-convicted-of-workplace-safety-breach-after-employee-sustained-serious-injury-on-site/

Seat belt on forklift warehouse safety
Wearing of seat belts on forklifts must be mandatory. Use technology to prevent the forklift being operated unless the seat belt is being worn.

B & J Benchtops Pty Ltd – fined $90,000

On 15 March 2018, two workers were tasked with emptying off-cuts from a scrap bin. Once the scrap bin was half empty, an unlicensed worker used the forklift to lift it 2 meters while the other worker – a 55-year-old male – climbed on the tynes to empty the remaining off-cuts. Shortly after, the bin fell off the raised tynes while the employee landed on his head and shoulders.

The investigation by SafeWork found that neither of the workers was licensed to operate a forklift. Furthermore, while the company had safety documentation to work on their customers’ sites they did not have it to work on their own warehouse.

For these reasons, B and J Benchtops Pty Ltd was charged and convicted for exposing its workers to serious injury or death and were fined $90,000.

What can we learn from this accident?

Safety licenses and documentation exist for a good reason. Forklifts aren’t tools that anybody can use as carelessness can easily result in a serious injury or death. That’s why, to avoid further accidents, the company took care to restrict forklift use to licensed drivers by placing a “licensed only” sign, locking the key away, and taking the forklift out of their bin-emptying procedure.

Find more info about this case at: https://onetouchcontractors.com.au/skip-bin-falls-from-forklift-tynes-with-worker-inside/

Forklift operating in warehouse sign
Forklift accidents in warehouses can occur if policies and training become ineffective

Modern Touch Marble and Granite Pty Limited and Johnne Khouri – $87,500

On 2 October 2015 a 20-yeard-old worker suffered serious injuries – including several broken ribs – when the 6440kg of quartz slabs he was unloading from a shipping container fell upon him. The accident occurred when the company’s director, Johnne Khouri, got on the forklift and moved the container while the employee was still unloading the unsecured cargo.

The investigation team from SafeWork NSW concluded that Mr. Khouri caused the accident when he decided to move the container despite not having the high-risk license required to operate a forklift. That’s why the Sydney District Court found both Modern Touch Marble and Granite Pty Ltd and its Director guilty of breaching the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 and fined them $75,000 and $12,500 respectively.

What can we learn from this accident?

Good leadership is the key to ensuring worker safety in warehouses and distribution centers. By using a forklift without a license, Mr. Khouri set a dangerous precedent that other workers might have followed and could have resulted in more serious injuries or even death.

Find more info about this case at: https://www.fairfieldchampion.com.au/story/5284727/yennora-company-fined-87500-after-worker-crushed/

City Projects Pty Ltd – $150,000

On 15 December 2017, City Projects Pty Ltd was fined $150,000 after a worker suffered serious injuries while unloading glass sheets. The 28-year-old worker was struck by unsecured glass panels while a forklift was unloading them from crates.

During the investigation, SafeWork staff found that the forklift operator didn’t have the licensing or training required to use high-risk machinery. Because of this, the injured worker suffered a leg fracture and had to spend weeks in rehabilitation before he could walk again.

What can we learn from this warehouse accident?

Out of all the areas in a warehouse, loading docks are one of the busiest and most dangerous. And that’s why only effective training and solid teamwork can prevent potentially deadly accidents like these from happening.

Find more info about this case at: https://safework-old.clients.squiz.net/news/media-release/worker-seriously-injured-after-company-fails-to-provide-training

The bottom line for warehouse safety

Warehouses and distribution centers represent the heart of a company. And just like people need to watch their diet and see a doctor to keep their heart healthy, companies must make sure their logistic nerve centres are not just efficient but most of all safe. Warehouse safety systems don’t just protect workers’ health. In fact, they can also lower operation costs and safeguard a company’s image.

So, if you still haven’t done it yet, contact a Safetysure warehouse safety professional and see how you can maximize efficiency without putting your employees on danger.

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