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Mega-fine imposed for forklift fatality

Thursday, 24 Apr 2008 ( #357 ) - MELBOURNE, Victoria, Australia
Local News Story
A County Court judge has imposed Victoria’s biggest-ever fine for a single workplace safety charge, but the fine is unlikely to be paid because the business has ceased trading.

County Court Judge Joe Gullaci last week convicted and fined DMP Poultech AUD400,000 after it pleaded guilty to a charge of failing to take care of the safety of people other than employees.

Judge Gullaci said Parliament should review laws so that company directors are made more accountable.

Fifty-four-year-old truck driver Mario Azzopardi died in December 2005 when a 550kg steel module fell from his truck at a poultry farm in Bungower Road, Moorooduc.

The man had been loading chickens onto a truck when he was struck by the steel crate, dislodged by a forklift operated by an unlicensed 16-year-old driver.

The court was told there were no procedures to stop truck drivers entering the area where the forklift was operating and that DMP Poultech employees knew modules could fall as it had happened before.

WorkSafe’s executive director, John Merritt, says the high fine sends a strong message to anyone with responsibilities under Victoria’s health and safety laws.

"This is a significant increase on the previous highest fine for a single charge and is a sign that the courts are increasingly reflecting community views that poor workplace safety standards are not acceptable"

"While this fine will not be paid, the company is out of business, a life has been lost, people have lost their jobs and the ongoing human impact is immeasurable."

Merritt says the death was yet another warning of the need to ensure forklifts and other mobile equipment are well separated from pedestrians.

"The hazard of falling loads are well known across industry. Out of 56 people who have died in forklift related incidents since 1985, 15 were pedestrians.

"Simple, straightforward remedial steps are available and they are affordable.

"Tragically in this case, like so many others, they were only implemented after someone died."
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