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January 2020

Simple measures could have prevented forklift driver death

Simple measures could have prevented forklift driver death

SafeWork New South Wales v Pickles Auctions Pty Limited (2016)

Facts

A Sydney auctioneer was convicted by the NSW District Court under the Work Health and Safety Act (2011) for failing to ensure the health and safety of workers and was fined $225,000. The prosecution followed an incident in which a forklift operator was killed and another worker injured while they were attempting to unload a truck at Pickles Auctions’ motor vehicle storage and auction site.

The 36-year-old forklift operator and a labourer, aged 19, attempted to move a cabinet from a truck onto a forklift. The labourer, who had only been working for the auction house for two months, was told to move the cabinet but given no instructions on how to do it safely.

The labourer sought the assistance of the forklift operator but they lost control of the cabinet while they were moving it and both were struck by it, resulting in the death of the forklift operator and injuries to the labourer.

Judgment

The District Court found that there were a number of simple measures that could have been taken to avoid the risk. One of these measures included using the proper equipment, which the workers’ supervisors knew about but failed to communicate.

The Court also referred to the obvious foreseeability of the risk, focusing on the age and experience of the labourer, and that the “barest consideration by anybody in authority” would have appreciated this risk.

Lessons

Employers should ensure that all risks and control measures, even if widely understood, are documented and communicated to workers. Employers must also ensure that all workers, especially young and inexperienced workers, receive adequate safety training and supervision.

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