A company involved in steel importation and land development in Western Australia has been fined a total of $240,000 and ordered to pay $30,581 in costs over an incident in which a 19-year-old worker had seven fingers amputated by forklift chains.
PT Supplies Group pleaded guilty after trial to failing to provide a safe work environment and, by that failure, caused serious harm to a worker and was fined $220,000 in the Perth Magistrates Court.
The company was fined an additional $20,000 for failing to notify the WorkSafe Commissioner forthwith of the notifiable injury.
In February 2018, PT Supplies workers were engaged in labouring and general clean-up work at a property in Banjup, when one of the workers was instructed to use a forklift to clear a firebreak of pallets of bricks and debris.
The worker worked into the early evening and it was almost dark. As he was driving the forklift, he noticed that the chains on the forklift had become slack.
After getting out of the forklift and walking to the front to look at the chains, he then went back to the cab and leaned forward to try to grab the chains with both hands and lift them back up onto the wheel on which they should have been.
The chains tensioned suddenly when he grabbed them and his hands became caught. A short time earlier he had asked his co-worker to fetch a spanner, so no one else was around at the time the incident happened.
He could not remove his hands from the chains and tried unsuccessfully to use his abdomen to press the horn to alert someone.
When his co-worker returned several minutes later, an ambulance and firefighters were called, and others involved with PT Supplies also attended the scene. Paramedics were unable to free the worker’s hands from the chains, but firefighters eventually did so.
Seven of the worker’s fingers were amputated in the incident. Surgeons managed to reattach two of the fingers, but their movement is severely restricted and the worker has been left with severe and permanent injuries.
The employer had failed to provide a safe workplace for the employee in a number of ways, and had then failed to report the injury for a period of more than a month, said WorkSafe WA Commissioner Darren Kavanagh.
“PT Supplies instructed the worker to operate a forklift without the required High Risk Work Licence and did not provide him or other employees with any induction or training in safe work procedures or any written safe work procedures or information on the safe use and maintenance of forklifts,” Kavanagh said.
“This young man suffered devastating and permanent injuries, but PT Supplies did not notify me forthwith as is required by law, and this resulted in a sizeable fine of $20,000.
“This is a clear warning to all employers of the need to familiarise themselves with what injuries are notifiable and to be sure that any included injuries are notified to me.
“The Magistrate emphasised that small businesses where workers spoke limited English were not exempt from complying with legislation. She also found that the employer had enough knowledge that a serious workplace accident had occurred to be able to make a report, as is required by the legislation.
“The young man involved in this incident will live with a severe disability for the rest of his life as a result of an incident that could readily have been avoided.”