Two workers sacked for “planking” at factory

The “planking” craze that has taken over Australia has cost two Melbourne factory workers their jobs and landed them in court after posting photos of the activity on Facebook.

Two factory workers from a Bayswater business in Victoria have pleading guilty to charges for performing activities which were considered to carry a risk of serious injury or death under the Occupational Health and Safety Act.

Stewart John Kift, 49, and Cameron Denbesten, 28 were each fined $1500 today after pleading guilty to  charges laid under the Occupational Health and Safety Act in the Ringwood Magistrates Court.

Kift was photographed by Denbesten about four metres off the ground on top of a spray booth at his employers’ Bayswater business in May.

Denbesten was photographed by Kift planking across the tynes of a forklift about up to four metres above the ground.

WorkSafe told Magistrate, Max Cashmore, the risk of serious injury or death was high if either of them fell because neither wore safety harnesses or used any other form of fall protection.

Both worked admitted their planking stunt was ‘stupid’.

WorkSafe prosecutor Patrick McQuillan told the court workplaces were not playgrounds, forklifts were not toys and that over the past five years, 7000 Victorian workplace injuries caused by falls from height had cost $200-million in treatment and rehabilitation costs.

Magistrate Cashmore said the men had escaped conviction by the ‘skin of their teeth’ and had only been saved by exemplary references, a lack of prior offending and solid work history.

Both men lost their jobs as a result of their planking which was reported to WorkSafe.

WorkSafe’s Operations General Manager of the Health and Safety Division, Lisa Sturzenegger, said the incidents brought together the issue of dangerous workplace pranks, the risk of falls from heights and improper use of forklifts.

“Falls from height in all industries account for many deaths and serious injuries every year,” Sturzenegger said.

“Whether they happen on construction sites, farms or in warehouses, the possibility of death, brain damage, ending up in a wheelchair or broken bones are all-too-real possibilities.

“Safety must be paramount. Everyone in the workplace should have zero tolerance for behaviour where people put themselves or others at risk.

“Images such as this involving mature people sends the wrong message and influences to our youth and children, more broadly.

“The consequences are exceptionally serious and can happen in an instant. It just isn’t worth it,” she said.

The men were charged under Section 25(1)(a) and (b) of the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 for failing their duties as employees to take reasonable care for their own health and safety; and in tehri duties as employees to take reasonable care for the health and safety of persons who may be affected by the employee’s acts or omissions at a workplace.

Image: Cameron Denbesten about two metres off the ground on a  forklift.