The federal court has passed judgement on a case that saw a 72-year-old great-grandfather lose his leg in an accident involving a forklift – fining the organisation $160,000 and ordering it to pay legal costs.
On July 7 2008 the victim was contracted by the Australian Postal Corporation (APC) to assist with packing a mail truck in preparation for a delivery run as part of his regular work routine when he was struck by the powered industrial vehicle.
The initial impact threw the man to the ground before the forklift then ran him over.
Rushed to hospital, surgeons found that the man's leg was badly injured and despite their best efforts they were unable to save the damaged limb – removing it 15 cm below the knee three days later.
The man has since recovered from his ordeal and now walks with the assistance of a prosthetic leg, although he is no longer able to indulge in one of his favourite past times – running.
In the delivery of the judgement on the case, the court found that the APC had breached a number of federal health and safety laws.
Australia post had previously admitted that it had failed to comply with OH&S legislation by not controlling vehicle and pedestrian movements in the loading dock at the time and by not providing the victim with the correct level of safety training.
Justice John Logan said in his judgement that the organisation had exhibited an obvious "failure in the corporation's chain of command" that resulted in the accident – although this did not excuse the actions of certain individuals who failed in their duty to deliver certain standards of safety.
Logan asserted: "It's all very well to have well thought out policies, but they are so much chaff unless there is a conscious and continuous effort to enforce them, and create a culture where enforcement is expected and adherence is the norm."
The judge also stated that it was vital for large organisations like the APC to cultivate and maintain a workplace culture that actively support safety protocols.
Speaking on the results of the case, general manager of the Work Health and Safety division at Comcare Neil Quarmby described the fine as significant and reflected the serious nature of the accident.
Quarmby asserted: "It certainly is a lesson to all employers of the need to implement proper practices that safeguard all employees in the workplace."
In NSW, victims of workplace injuries can actively apply for assistance through a compensation lawyer.
A no win no fee law firm can also help to reduce the initial cost of consultation – allowing victims to explore their legal options with ease.