Employee fined $7200 over death of truck driver at Harvey Fresh

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A forklift operator has been fined $7200 (and ordered to pay costs of $800) over the death of a truck driver who died as the result of a fall while washing his truck at Harvey Fresh in 2014.

Gypsum Metallica Rongonvi Hoff-Higgins pleaded guilty to failing to take reasonable care of the safety of another person and thereby causing his death, and was fined in the Harvey Magistrates Court yesterday.

Mr Hoff-Higgins was employed as a forklift driver at Harvey Fresh, Harvey in February 2014, where he was required to move bulk milk and juice products within the workplace.

The truck driver – who transported bulk milk products to various locations within the Perth area – had parked his Scania prime mover truck in the main truck parking area between the mechanical workshop and a storage area for wooden pallets and pallecons (wooden fruit bins).

He had returned from his run and intended to wash the cab of his truck before finishing for the day.  He asked Mr Hoff-Higgins to collect a pallecon from the storage area so he could be raised by the forklift in the pallecon to wash the roof.

Mr Hoff-Higgins took at pallecon to the front of the truck with his forklift, where the driver loaded a bucket, a 2.5 metre long broom and the end of a hose into the pallecon and climbed in.

Mr Hoff-Higgins then used the forklift to raise the driver in the pallecon around two metres into the air.  The pallecon was not secured in any way to the tines of the forklift to prevent it from tipping over or sliding off.

While the driver was in the process of washing the truck, he moved to the left and the pallecon tipped and fell from the forklift tines.  The driver fell to the ground and the pallecon fell on top of him, causing fatal head injuries.

WorkSafe WA Commissioner Lex McCulloch said today a number of alternatives were available to clean the roof of the truck.

“The truck driver could have tilted the truck cab forward and cleaned it from the ground using the long-handled broom provided,” Mr McCulloch said.

“There were also a safety ladder and a raised platform at the workplace, either of which would have provided a safer method of reaching the truck’s roof.

“As the holder of a High Risk Work Licence and holder of responsibility in this situation, Mr Hoff-Higgins should have known better than to agree to such a dangerous course of action.

“In fact, when assessed to demonstrate his competency to operate a forklift after this incident, Mr Hoff-Higgins demonstrated that he knew the actions he took in February 2014 were not safe.

“Tragically, the ill-advised actions he took resulted in the death of a fellow worker.

“This case should serve as a reminder to all employers that safe systems of work must be in place, and these safe systems must be known and adhered to by all employees.

“It is also a timely reminder that forklift operation requires a High Risk Work Licence, and workers who hold such a licence have a responsibility for their own safety and the safety of everyone else in the workplace when it comes to their work tasks.”

Further information on safe systems of work 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)


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Media release
16 Aug 2016

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