Worker fined $11,000 over death of fellow worker

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An employee has been fined $11,000 (and ordered to pay $1745 in costs) over the death of a fellow worker at a hay baling workplace at Narrogin in 2013.

Thomas William Lewis pleaded guilty to failing to take reasonable care for the safety of another person and, by that failure, causing the person’s death, and was fined in the Perth Magistrates Court today.

At the time of the death, Mr Lewis and the victim were both employed full time as press operators/forklift operators at Narrogin Hay Pty Ltd.

In October 2013, the two men were working in the hay process line shed.  Mr Lewis was collecting hay bales with a hay baling forklift and loading them onto feed tables.  The victim was operating his forklift with a box attachment to collect waste hay from the floor.

At around 9.00am, the victim was driving his forklift at around walking pace past one of the hay presses.  As he came to the end of the hay press, he beeped his horn and continued to drive towards the waste bunker.

Mr Lewis had just loaded hay bales onto a feed table.  He reversed his forklift, then set off forward to collect more bales.

The baling forks on the forklift (consisting of five sharp metal tines designed to pierce hay bales) remained raised approximately 1.5m-1.7m above the ground, partially obscuring Mr Lewis’s vision.

He travelled approximately 13m before impacting with the victim’s forklift side-on, one of the tines piercing the victim’s torso as he sat on his forklift seat.

He was treated by ambulance officers on site then flown to Perth for surgery, but died that night from non-survivable abdominal injuries.

Mr Lewis was found guilty of not taking reasonable care by driving the forklift with the hay baling attachment raised more than 30cm from the ground, an action he should have foreseen could cause serious injury or death.

He had been warned by supervisors on at least two previous occasions about driving with the forks raised.  He had also completed High Risk Work training, in which part of the competency assessment was not driving a forklift with the forks raised.

WorkSafe WA Commissioner Lex McCulloch said the case should serve as a further reminder that everyone in a workplace has a duty to take reasonable care for the safety of others in the workplace.

“This case demonstrates that the employer is not the only one with a duty of care, and also shows how safe systems of work can be implemented by an employer but ignored by an individual,” Mr McCulloch said.

“The employer in this case had made it clear that driving a forklift forward with the forks raised was not permitted, but Mr Lewis continued to do so after at least two warnings.

“The consequences in this instance were devastating, and should serve as a tragic reminder to keep safety as the number one consideration in workplaces.”

Further information on workplace safety and safe operation of forklifts 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
20 Feb 2017

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