Kitchen cabinet firm fined $120,000 after workplace accident

Date: Apr 23, 2018

A kitchen cabinet manufacturer has been fined $120,000 following an accident that left an employee requiring nine months of rehabilitation due to serious injuries.

The firm was disassembling an unused cool room on its premises, a task it had decided to perform without third-party assistance because of the costs involved.

Taking apart the cool room meant dismantling large panels, some of which were suspended from the factory's roof by wire cables. A worker was subsequently injured while walking across these ceiling panels after one gave way, causing him to fall from height.

When employees are hurt performing their duties, they are entitled to workers compensation until they are able to return to their job. If an injury or illness is the result of an employer's negligence, the individual may be eligible for work injury damages instead.

Why was the employer fined?

Employers that contravene work health and safety (WHS) regulations can be found guilty of a criminal offence.

In this particular case, the kitchen cabinet manufacturer failed to implement various work and training processes that would have helped keep employees safe while completing the cool room disassembly.

For example, no formal risk assessment was documented and the firm neglected to develop a Safe Work Method Statement (SWMS) for the job. A SWMS outlines how a high-risk construction task should be performed, as well as the hazards likely to arise and the measures needed to prevent these problems.

The manufacturer also had no general SWMS for working at heights. Instead, the strategy for taking apart the cool room was simply discussed between key staff members prior to commencing work.

How was the fine calculated?

The company pled guilty to failing to comply with WHS duties pursuant to section 19(1) of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011, which means the company exposed an employee to a risk of serious injury or death. The maximum fine for this offence is $1.5 million, but District Court Judge Andrew Scotting said the manufacturer's failings were only at the middle range of severity.

Furthermore, the firm had a long record of excellent WHS processes and implemented new measures following the accident.

Judge Scotting meted out a $160,000 fine, which was reduced by 25 per cent because of the manufacturer's early guilty plea. It is not clear whether the employee who suffered injuries pursued a civil court case against the organisation in order to receive damages for negligence.

However, compensation may be available to workers who sustain serious injuries or illnesses during the course of their jobs. Please contact a personal injury specialist at Gerard Malouf & Partners Compensation, Medical Negligence & Will Dispute Lawyers for more information.

Call us now on 1800 004 878 to book a free appointment with one of my compensation experts, or email your enquiry.