Paper manufacturer receives $400,000 fine over forklift driver death

Media Release | 21/09/2015

One of Australia’s largest packaging and resource recovery companies, Visy Paper Pty Ltd has been fined more than $400,000 following the death of a worker in 2012.

A 63 year old forklift operator suffered fatal injuries at the Visy waste recycling facility at Smithfield on 12 December 2012 when a front end loader reversed into him.

At the time of the incident, the forklift operator was working in the recycling facility’s covered paper yard where loose recyclable paper materials were delivered by truck for unloading and movement by forklift and front end loader.

On 4 September 2015, the District Court found Visy guilty of a breach of section 19(1)/32 of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 and fined them $412,500 plus ordered them to pay SafeWork NSW’s costs.

Executive Director of SafeWork NSW (formerly WorkCover NSW), Peter Dunphy said despite being aware of the risks, Visy failed to ensure the safety of workers in the yard.

“The risk of pedestrians being struck was known to Visy following an incident seven months earlier where a truck driver’s foot was run over by a reversing front end loader and a risk assessment completed,” Mr Dunphy said.

“Despite implementing a number of policies following the risk assessment, Visy failed to follow them.

“During the hearing, Visy could offer no explanation for this failure.”

Mr Dunphy said there were a number of actions Visy should have taken to prevent the incident.

“Barriers should have been installed to protect workers in the yard from being struck by vehicles,” he said.

“They should also have set up an exclusion zone in the yard where workers were not permitted to enter, unless authorised.

“Other steps include placing a traffic controller in the yard to ensure safe distances between trucks, forklifts and workers, and providing workers with two-way radios.

“A louder reversing alarm should also have been fitted to the front end loader so that pedestrians were alerted that it was in use.”

Following the incident, Visy implemented a number of safety measures, including installing concrete barriers and fencing to create a designated area for mobile plant in the yard, engaging a full-time traffic controller to manage traffic, creating an authorised access area for the operation of mobile plant, and creating a drop-off zone marked with red painted lines to identify areas where trucks could unload.

“While Visy made safety improvements following the incident, it’s clear that the risks that led to this tragedy were foreseeable and preventable,” Mr Dunphy said.“This decision sends a strong message to the NSW waste recycling industry about the need to have effective safe work systems in place to control work health and safety risks.”

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