Warehouse death results in massive company fine

Date: Dec 06, 2011

A company has been fined $600,000 by the industrial court after a number of aluminium containers weighing approximately a tonne fell on a worker, fatally injuring him.

The accident occurred in a warehouse in the New South Wales city of Newcastle, where the organisation’s manufacturing plant produced a range of specialised metal goods for maritime, industrial, commercial and domestic use.

During the incident on September 3 2007, the victim – a 27-year-old man – was working amongst bulk storage racks in a facility in Mayfield West when a number of cases of aluminium products fell on him.

The metal items were being moved at the time by a worker using a crane to hoist them into a new position when the housing container failed.

WorkCover NSW told the court that this was the second time the company in question had experienced a death in the workplace that had resulted from a failure to follow safe working practices.

The penalties applied to the organisation were made to reflect this fact, with the $350,000 being one of the largest ever applied to a firm for a single breach of OHS legislation.

Specifically, the court found that part 1 of Section 8 of the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2000 – the piece relating to the duties of the employer – were not sufficiently covered by the organisation.

In addition the firm was hit with a second fine of $250,000 for breaching part 2 of the same section which relates to controlling hazards present around individuals who may not be employees.

Speaking on the findings of the industrial court, the general manager of WorkCover NSW’s Work Health and Safety Division John Watson declared that this particular incident was entirely foreseeable.

Watson asserted: “The risk of harm that existed in this instance was known to the defendant from the previous incident that occurred. The steps that should have been taken to ensure safety were not taken.

“The incident has had a devastating impact on the deceased worker’s family and the fine goes some way to highlighting the seriousness of the offences.”

He went on to say that WorkCover would attempt to deliver lasting cultural change to the business in question – ensuring that the lessons learnt from this incident were not forgotten.

It is uncertain at this point whether or not the family of the man have filed with a personal injury lawyer to seek compensation.

In cases where financial difficulties can be a concern, a no win no fee arrangement can be reached, allowing claimants to explore their legal options before completing an application.

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