Don’t let this happen to you!
This newsletter is to remind you that just having a safety management system in place may not be the protection you thought it provided.
An incident in 2020 which left an employee with hip and foot fractures resulted in a not-for-profit organisation being fined $30,000.
The organisation was found guilty under sections 19(1) and 32 of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 for failing its primary health and safety duty and that failure exposed an individual to a risk of death or serious injury.
At the time, the organisation had a warehouse where paid employees and unpaid volunteers worked.
A paid worker was operating a forklift to move goods between the warehouse building and vehicles in the loading zone. Contrary to the defendant’s work instruction, a volunteer entered the loading zone to take a break.
The worker drove the forklift into the loading zone and didn’t see the other man who was standing near a truck and a stack of pallets. The forklift ran into the volunteer who suffered fractures to his right pelvis and foot that required hospital treatment.
The court heard the organisation failed to adequately ensure workers complied with its policies and procedures for eliminating or minimising the potential for contact between pedestrians and moving plant.
Workers had not been sufficiently trained, and there was no system to enforce, its work instruction prohibiting pedestrians from being in a loading zone at the front of the warehouse.
The organisation’s work instruction prohibited pedestrian workers from entering or remaining in the loading zone.
The organisations failure to ensure compliance with its work instruction was a failure of its health and safety duty. That failure exposed workers to the risk of death or serious injury from contact with moving plant.
In sentencing, the Acting Magistrate noted there was a high onus on duty-holders under the Act for good reason, given the potential for injury and death when duties are not complied with.
Even though the defendant was a non-profit charitable organisation that functions for community benefit, his Honour recognised its non-compliance with work health and safety obligations justified a need to convey a deterrent message.
His Honour noted the organisation had relevant procedures in place, including an induction process, but agreed with the prosecution’s submission that the incident was indicative of erosion in the defendant’s enforcement of those procedures.
His Honour remarked there was an element of complacency that ultimately led to the materialisation of the risk.
The organisation was fined $30,000, plus costs of almost $1600. No conviction was recorded.
This incident, subsequent investigations and legal proceedings and outcomes are another harsh reminder all business’s, including charitable organisations have an obligation to always keep their workers and volunteers safe.
Our best recommendation is to always ensure your safety management system is in place and up to date with current requirements at all times, including policies and procedures.
A failure to do so may see you in the same position as the organisation noted in this newsletter!
Best tip, BE COMPLIANT and make sure every facet of your SMS is correct and up-to-date. Not sure? You only need to contact us!