A six-figure penalty has been slapped on a logistics company over a workplace accident in which a worker was injured by a forklift, the second such type of workplace accident heard by a court in a month.
Hellmann Worldwide Logistics, which supplies supermarket chains, pleaded guilty in the Sunshine Magistrates’ Court in Melbourne to one count of failing to provide a safe system of work — a breach of the Occupational Health and Safety Act — by not having implemented a traffic management system.
According to Worksafe Victoria, which prosecuted the case, a worker at the company’s factory in Laverton North was hit by a reversing electric forklift on 2 August 2016, despite correctly wearing a high-visibility vest.
The unnamed worker suffered a leg fracture in the accident, after being pushed to the ground and pulled underneath the forklift.
Both the injured worker and the driver of the forklift were employees of a labour hire company.
An investigation after the incident found that there had been no traffic management system in place at the time, nor were there physical barriers or other means of separating pedestrians from machinery.
In its hearing on 26 February this year, the court fined Hellman $100,000, and also ordered the company to pay WorkSafe Victoria’s costs of a further $6,555.
Worksafe said that the company has since installed fixed barriers at the factory to create pedestrian walkways.
Separate action against the labour hire company whose employees were involved in the accident was resolved in July last year, with the company subject to an enforceable undertaking. It had been charged with failing to conduct a risk assessment and failing to liaise with Hellmann about workplace risks.
“The extreme risk to workers posed by moving machinery such as forklifts cannot be ignored and control measures must always be put in place,” said Julie Nielsen, director of health and safety at WorkSafe Victoria.
“In this case, having the correct safety measures in place would have prevented a worker [from] receiving debilitating injuries.
“Like all workers, labour hire staff have every right to return home safely at the end of the day, so employers must ensure risks are properly assessed to provide them with a safe working environment.”
Hellman is a global logistics company headquartered in Germany. Its Australian headquarters are located in Mascot, near Sydney Airport, although it has facilities in most Australian capital cities.
The company’s Australian headquarters subsequently responded to a request for comment on 28 March, with a spokesperson stating that “Hellmann Worldwide Logistics deeply regrets the accident that occurred and the injury that was sustained”.
“We are committed to the safety of our people and those that enter our workplaces. We have worked closely with Worksafe to ensure that all possible precautions have been put in place to prevent an incident of this nature occurring in the future.”
A separate forklift accident at a family-owned farm in Victoria resulted in an $80,000 fine being handed down last month.
Adam Zuchetti is the editor of My Business, and has steered the publication’s editorial direction since early 2016.