A timber recycling mill in Taree has been fined $ 80,000 after a worker received serious spine injuries resulting in paraplegia.
The company pleaded guilty to a charge under section 8 (1) of the Occupational Health and safety Act 2000 for failing to provide a safe workplace.
The NSW District Court found there were several failures in systems of work at the mill at Pampoolah and that the risk of serious injury was predictable.
The court heard that the injured worker was on top of a stack of timber as it was being moved by a forklift in the kiln area. The forklift operator, who was also the company director left the forklift and re-boarded it from the wrong side resulting to his clothes catching a lever. This caused the forklift’s tines to rise and pin the victim between the load and the inside of the kiln.
The worker is now a wheelchair bound paraplegic due to serious spine injuries.
The company overlooked basic general principles of safe forklift operation. They were convicted and fined $ 80,000 and ordered to pay WorkCover’s costs.
In sentencing, Justice Blanch acknowledged the company’s full cooperation with the investigation. The company also supported the victim and provided him an alternative employment. They also revised their safety procedure for work in or near the kiln as well as repairs to the kiln pulley system and forklift guarding.
WorkCover’s Work Health and Safety Division General Manager, John Watson said the incident is a stern reminder there is no room for complacency towards safety.
“Tragically, this incident could have been easily avoided if simple and safe systems of work had been followed. Working with forklifts and machinery poses a range of risks which should be always addressed prior to work being undertaken,” said Mr Watson.
“I urge all businesses that use forklifts to review their work procedures and consult with their staff around safe operating procedures.”