$225,000 fine issued over shipping container death

The following article is a news item provided for the benefit of the Workplace Health and Safety profession. Its content does not necessarily reflect the views of the Australian Institute of Health & Safety.
Tuesday, 25 April, 2023 - 12:45
Incidents & prosecutions

A truck body manufacturer in Carrum Downs Victoria has been convicted and fined $225,000 after a manager was crushed and killed inside a shipping container.

Prestige Truck Bodies (Aust) was sentenced in the Melbourne County Court after pleading guilty to a single charge of failing to provide or maintain safe systems of work, so far as was reasonably practicable.

The court heard that in its production process, the company used fibreglass and particle board panels that arrived at the workplace in shipping containers, packed in a manner that meant they could only be unloaded manually.

In January 2020, five workers, including the manager, were emptying stacks of panels weighing more than 3.5 tonnes in total from a container. The panels had not been securely packed and had become loose in transit.

As the first panel was being removed, several others fell and crushed the manager against the container wall.

The court heard that it was reasonably practicable for Prestige Truck Bodies to have implemented a system of work that required the supplier to pack panels in a manner that would allow them to be unloaded using machinery, such as a forklift, and to return any containers that were not packed in this manner.

The risks of removing heavy loads from shipping containers were well known and employers must ensure they have a safe system of work in place, said WorkSafe Victoria executive director of health and safety Narelle Beer.

“Once a load begins to fall, there’s often no opportunity to escape for anyone inside a container, and the consequences are all too often deadly,” Beer said.

“Duty holders should never allow workers to attempt to unload a shipping container that has not been safely packed, and WorkSafe will continue to prosecute those who put workers in harm’s way.”