A Sydney car auctioneer has been fined more than $250,000 after a forklift operator was killed while unloading a truck at Milperra in 2013.

The incident occurred when a 36 year old forklift operator and a 19 year old labourer attempted to move a cabinet from a truck onto a forklift at Pickles Auctions’ Milperra motor vehicle storage and auction site. The labourer, who had only been employed two months earlier, was directed to move the cabinet but given no instructions on how to do it safely. He sought the assistance of the forklift operator but they lost control of the cabinet while they were moving it and both were struck, resulting in the death of the forklift operator and fracturing the ribs and injuring the knee of the labourer.

SafeWork NSW charged Pickles Auctions with a breach of sections 32/19(1) of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (the Act) for failing to ensure the health and safety of workers.

Pickles Auctions were found guilty by the District Court in June and fined $255,000.

Executive Director of SafeWork NSW, Peter Dunphy said the incident highlighted the risks of working with forklifts and need to provide effective supervision and support to young workers.

“Forklifts continue to be a major factor in workplace deaths and injuries,” Mr Dunphy said.

“Between July 2012 and July 2014, 1,360 workers were injured in forklift incidents, including five fatalities.

“The social and economic impact is also significant, including a cost of $15.8 million to the NSW workers compensation scheme.

“Young workers make up approximately 12 per cent of all employment injuries and occupational diseases across the State, and are more vulnerable to workplace safety risks because of their inexperience or reluctance to speak up about safety concerns.

“Our investigation found that a lack of safety systems, instruction and supervision were major contributors to this incident.

“Pickles Auctions failed to train and instruct the workers how to safely remove the cabinet from the truck and did not tell them which forklift could safely carry the cabinet.

“This resulted in the workers selecting the wrong sized forklift with tragic results.”

“This incident highlights the need for employers to have appropriate systems in place to ensure that all workers, particularly young workers, receive sufficient training and support to work safely.”

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