Glass importers fined $45,000 over worker death

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An Osborne Park glass importing company has been fined a total of $45,000 over the death of a worker in 2013.

Moscou Holdings Pty Ltd – who, together with Rite Angles Pty Ltd, trades as Penguin International – pleaded guilty to failing to provide a safe workplace and, by that failure, causing the death of the worker, and was fined $45,000 in the Perth Magistrates Court last week.

The partner, Rite Angles Pty Ltd, pleaded not guilty and their trial will take place in February.

Penguin International imported sheets of glass from China, and trucks delivered shipping containers holding sheets of glass of various sizes to their premises in Collingwood Street, Osborne Park.

The glass sheets were packed in wooden crates that were strapped to a side of the shipping container, and staff unpacked the crates between one and three times a month.

The smallest crates were unpacked by the workers who manually lifted them out of the containers, and heavier and/or larger crates were unpacked from the container with the aid of a forklift that was able to drive inside the container.

The largest crates were too large for the workers to unpack manually, and the forklift could not be used inside the containers because its mast could not extend high enough under the roof of the containers.

With the largest crates, a forklift with a sling attached dragged the crates to the front of the container while workers inside the container assisted by manually guiding and supporting the crates as they were dragged out.

In February 2013, three workers were unpacking a shipping container.  One of the workers cut the straps that held the crates to the wall of the container and another separated the crates with a crowbar so they were freestanding.

As a forklift being driven by the third worker pulled the first crate to the front of the container, one of the workers supported its weight and guided it forward while the other worker supported the weight of another crate to stop it falling.

The crate being guided to the front of the container – which weighed around 1.2 tonnes - fell onto the worker who was guiding it, fatally injuring him.

In May 2011, a similar incident had occurred in the same workplace in which two workers were injured when a crate fell over inside a shipping container while it was being unpacked.  The way in which containers were unpacked was not changed as a result of this incident.

WorkSafe WA Commissioner Lex McCulloch said today the case was a tragic example of not having safe systems of work in place and not learning from past near misses.

“It’s difficult to believe that an employer would persist with an unsafe system of work when there had already been a near miss at the workplace,” Mr McCulloch said.

“In this case, the consequences of not finding a safer method of work were absolutely disastrous, with a 24-year-old worker needlessly losing his life.

“The court heard that after this tragic death, Penguin International developed a system to unpack the crates without the need for workers to be inside the container where they were exposed to the risk of a crate falling onto them.

“Unfortunately, it was all too late for this young man and his family, friends and workmates.

“I urge all employers to learn from this tragic case and to ensure that risk assessments are carried out wherever they are needed in workplaces and safe systems of work put into place wherever there are risks.”

Further information on risk assessments and keeping the workplace safe can be obtained by telephoning WorkSafe on 1300 307877 or on the website at www.worksafe.wa.gov.au.

Media contact: Caroline De Vaney 6251 2363 or 0408 927563 (media enquiries only)

caroline.devaney@commerce.wa.gov.au

Follow @WorkSafeWA on Twitter

WorkSafe
Media release
09 Dec 2015

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