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November 2020

Company with multiple prior convictions fined $300,000

Company with multiple prior convictions fined $300,000

The Case

SafeWork NSW v ABC Tissue Products Pty Ltd (2020)

In February 2017, a process worker of ABC Tissue Products Pty Ltd, a manufacturer and supplier of tissue paper products, crossed through the loading bay when walking from the toilet area to the production area. As she was crossing the loading bay, she was struck on her shoulder by a 1.86-tonne jumbo roll of tissue paper that was being moved on a crane. The process worker suffered traumatic brain injuries and a partially collapsed lung, and was in an induced coma for 6 days.

The crane operator had not seen the process worker, as his view was obstructed by the jumbo roll. Cranes were required to be driven in reverse when transporting large rolls to allow a better visual, but this was impossible due to limited space.

There were marked walkways to direct workers around the loading bay but the process worker was unaware of them.

Supervisors and managers were also aware that workers regularly crossed through the loading bay to get to and from the toilet.

The Judgment

The marked walkways were an inadequate measure to prevent workers from crossing the loading bay and avoiding interactions with forklifts and cranes. ABC Tissue Products should have erected physical barriers to stop workers crossing the loading bay. The company also failed to implement a traffic management plan for the production area and loading bay.

The Court found that the company’s failure to comply with its health and safety duty amounted to a Category 2 breach.

ABC Tissue Products was, with conviction, sentenced to pay a fine of $300,000 (following a 25% reduction for entering a guilty plea) plus $40,000 in costs. The company also had seven prior convictions for similar offences and recently entered a $1.5 million enforceable undertaking in lieu of prosecution involving an injury sustained from a rewinder machine.

The Lessons

You must protect workers so far as is reasonably practicable from risks arising at the workplace. In circumstances where workers should not enter particular areas, simple floor markings may be inadequate and physical barriers may need to be erected.

Supervisors and managers are also required to enforce safety rules and ensure compliance.

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