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Fined for forklift safety failure

Wednesday, 18 Mar 2009 ( #402 ) - Bendigo, Victoria, Australia
Local News Story
WorkSafe’s executive director, John Merritt
Metal fabrication company Phil Fehring Engineering has been convicted and fined for failing to comply with three safety improvement notices issued in 2006.

The improvement notices required the retrofitting of operator restraints in its forklifts, which was only done at a cost of $730 for each of its three forklifts several days before the court case.

Failing to act in time cost the company three convictions and AUD11,000 in fines and court costs.

Magistrate David Cottrill said if the company had taken appropriate advice and acted quickly, a lengthy legal process could have been avoided and the costs to the business substantially mitigated.

Describing the company’s failings as serious with high stakes, he said the firm had put its head in the sand.  

The company contested the validity of the notices through WorkSafe’s internal review process and then took one notice to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal which endorsed WorkSafe’s authority to issue them.

Forklifts are among Victoria’s most dangerous machines. Of the 56 forklift-related deaths since 1985, 11 were forklift operators who were crushed by the machine in a tip-over when they were thrown from, or jumped, from their seat.

The Australian Standards have required operator restraints on new forklifts since 1995 and WorkSafe has been engaged in a campaign to encourage employers to retrofit seatbelts on all forklifts manufactured before 1995 where reasonably practicable.

WorkSafe’s executive director, John Merritt, says safety improvement notices were central to the enforcement of Victoria’s health and safety laws.
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