Transport company fined $58K over worker’s crush injury and lack of licence

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A transport company in Western Australia has been fined $58,000 following an incident where a worker’s hand was crushed between two containers being moved using a forklift.

The incident happened in August 2014 when a worker was driving a truck with two trailers attached carrying two sea containers locked together with twist locks and locked to the trailers. He was driving to the Esperance yard so the containers could be unloaded. The company’s General Manager was to unload the containers from the trailers using a forklift.

As the truck driver was releasing the twist locks that attached the top container to the bottom one, the top container stuck to the one underneath it. In the process of separating the containers, the driver’s left hand was crushed between the top and bottom container. He suffered crush injuries, required skin grafts and insertion of pins to repair open fractures.

The company pleaded guilty to failing to provide and maintain a safe workplace and, by that failure, causing serious harm to an employee. It was fined $55,000 in the Esperance Magistrates Court on Friday. It was also fined $3000 for allowing an employee to operate a forklift without holding the appropriate High Risk Work Licence.

Magistrate Hills-Wright said the incident was entirely foreseeable and could have been avoided.

WorkSafe WA Commissioner Ian Munns said the incident highlighted the importance of setting up safe systems of work at all times.

“There was an obvious lack of safe work procedures at the Esperance yard on the day of this incident, particularly, procedures for working under suspended loads,” said Mr. Munns.

“In the absence of safe procedures, there was potential for the worker’s body parts to be underneath the suspended load of a forklift and for that load to strike or crush those body parts, leading to serious injury.

“A reasonable person in the position of company director should have foreseen this hazard and realized that it was an unsafe system of work to allow an employee to be in close proximity to the suspended load of a forklift.

“The worker should have been prohibited from removing the twist locks from the bottom container until the top container was safely removed from the pedestrian area.”

Following the incident, the company has stopped the task of separating sea containers and has not resumed that task. The accused employee has obtained a High Risk Work Licence class LF to operate a forklift.

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