NSW manufacturers fined $193,000 after pallets fall on three men

Two NSW cardboard box manufacturers and a manager have been fined a total of $193,000 and ordered to pay WorkCover’s legal costs after a one-tonne pallet toppled onto three workers, causing serious injuries in late 2007.

Zac Pac and J.I.T. Offset, both based in the same facility in southwest Sydney suburb of Ingleburn, have been charged with multiple breaches of the Occupational Health & Safety Act 2000.

On 21 December 2007, a pallet of cardboard boxing tipped over onto an employee who was operating a forklift on site.

The forklift driver started to clean up the fallen sheeting with the assistance of another two other employees, when another two and a half pallets weighing more than a tonne fell onto the three men.

One of the workers involved in the incident suffered a fractured spine, a dislocated and fractured right elbow, cuts to his head requiring stitches and general cuts and abrasions. He was unfit for work for two months as a result his injuries.

The other two workers sustained soft tissue injuries, lower back muscle strain, and general cuts and abrasions.

A WorkCover investigation found that the safety conditions at the dual-facility were unsafe and that an incident of this type was predictable and preventable.

The investigation found the companies had:

• Failed to have safe work practices in place for employees moving and/or storing cardboard boxes

• Failed to carry out a risk assessment

• Failed to provide instruction, training and information to employees

• Failed to provide adequate supervision

• Failed to inform employees of the risks of carrying out moving tasks incorrectly

• Failed to have pedestrian exclusion zones and/or physical barriers around stored stacks of cardboard boxes so as to ensure those boxes could not fall on employees.

The court fined Zac Pac and J.I.T Offset $130,000 and $60,000 respectively. Operations manager, James Foran, was also found guilty and fined $3200. All three were ordered to pay WorkCover’s legal costs.

WorkCover NSW’s General Manager of Work Health and Safety Division John Watson said the companies had failed on multiple counts to provide a safe working environment for employees.

“This incident highlights the need for safe stacking and storage systems, particularly where heavy materials are stored at height,” Watson said.

“Staff should always be appropriately inducted and trained in the safe work practices.

“Forklifts can be dangerous if not operated by properly trained people and proper controls should always be in place to isolate personnel from areas where forklifts are in operation,” Watson said.