A family-owned farm has been slapped with $80,000 in penalties over an accident that injured a contractor, the latest instance in a series of workplace accidents to have hit the farm in recent years.
WorkSafe Victoria said in a statement that Covino Farms Pty Ltd had been fined over the December 2016 accident, in which a female contractor was struck from behind by a forklift carrying crates of lettuce.
It said that the 50-year-old contractor was required to use the same corridor as forklifts in order to access a nearby room.
As a result of the accident, she sustained a fractured pelvis, dislocated shoulder, bruising and scarring, and has been unable to continue to work in the same role, the regulator said.
The Sale Magistrates’ Court found the Gippsland farm guilty of failing to take reasonable steps to provide a workplace free of health and safety risks. In addition to the fine, it was also ordered to pay $4,573 in costs.
“Forklifts and pedestrian workers should be able to safely co-exist where reasonably practicable control measures are in place; however, when they are not, the consequences are often severe,” said Julie Nielsen, WorkSafe’s executive director of health and safety.
“A traffic management plan, which includes the physical separation of forklifts and people, is essential and, in this case, would have avoided a worker receiving debilitating injuries.
“Like all workers, contractors have every right to return home safely at the end of the day, so employers must ensure they are provided with a safe working environment.”
According to the agency, employers should ensure a number of measures are put in place for staff working at sites where forklifts are used, including:
- Providing all workers with appropriate induction and training on the work they are to be involved in, and that a register of training and induction is maintained on file.
- Putting in place a traffic management plan for pedestrians and powered mobile plant and that it is reviewed and updated as appropriate.
- Separating pedestrians from moving machinery and put in place an effective communication system between operators, transport contractors and ground staff.
- Ensuring adequate signage is in place and barriers are erected where appropriate.
- Identifying and controlling visibility issues, particularly if lighting is poor.
- Ensuring workers operating equipment where a High Risk License is required, such as a forklift, hold a current licence.
- If undertaking training, a person should actively be supervised by a person who holds a current licence.
- Regularly inspecting and maintaining machinery and vehicles, with work carried out by a suitably qualified person.
It is not the first time that Covino Farms has faced court over a workplace accident. Two separate accidents in 2015 resulted in combined penalties worth $85,000 being issued to the farm.
In one incident, an employee stepped into an open drain base, while in a separate accident, an employee was run over by a spinach seeder.
Following those incidents, where the judgments were handed down in June 2017, Covino Farms issued a statement accepting the local court’s verdict.
“WorkSafe Victoria investigated two incidents that occurred on Covino Farms Gippsland property, in January and February 2015,” the statement, posted on its website, said.
“Covino Farms regrets the fact that the accidents happened and has since reiterated its commitment to workplace safety practices to ensure the welfare of all its employees.
“Both the injured employees made a full recovery and returned to work.”
It added: “Covino Farms is fully committed to the health and safety of its workers and in the enhancement of our processes and systems. We have since made improvements in our OH&S systems and will continue to invest in our workers’ welfare.”
Covino Farms declined to comment “at this time”.
Adam Zuchetti is the editor of My Business, and has steered the publication’s editorial direction since early 2016.