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January 2020

Worker’s stunt ends in employer’s prosecution

Worker’s stunt ends in employer’s prosecution

WorkSafe Victoria v HOA Australia Pty Ltd (2015)

Facts

On 9 December 2014, HOA Australia Pty Ltd operated an importer and wholesaler business, which employed about 30 workers. One worker was driving a forklift in the warehouse when another worker stepped onto the tines of the forklift to get a lift. The driver told the worker to get off. As he got off, his foot was trapped under a wheel of the forklift. The worker suffered serious crush injuries to his leg and foot.

Judgment

In finding the company guilty of failing to ensure the safety of its workers, the Court took into account that the driver of the forklift did not hold a high-risk work licence for operating a forklift. The aberrant behaviour of the worker stepping onto the tines of the forklift was also relevant to the size of the penalty. The company was fined $4,000 without conviction, and ordered to pay court costs.

Lessons

You are under an obligation to make sure that any workers who operate high-risk plant, such as forklifts, are qualified to do so. Even if a worker voluntarily engages in an unsafe act, you may be held accountable as the employer. You need to emphasise to all workers the dangers of forklifts and other high-risk plant and the risks of skylarking in the workplace.

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