Manufacturer fined $85,000 after worker paralysed

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Wednesday, 1 March, 2023 - 12:30
Incidents & prosecutions

A benchtop manufacturer and installer in Victoria has been convicted and fined $85,000 after a worker was left paralysed after being crushed by a stone slab weighing up to 280kg.

Group Manufacturing Victoria was sentenced in the Broadmeadows Magistrates’ Court after pleading guilty to a single charge of failing to provide or maintain systems of work that were, so far as was reasonably practicable, safe and without risks to health.

The company, which trades as Willis Bros, was also ordered to pay costs of $4406.

The court heard the injured worker and a colleague waited several hours for a third person to help them install a 3-metre by 2-metre kitchen island stone slab at a Wyndham Vale construction site in October 2019. When this worker failed to show up, the duo attempted to complete the job.

After the slab was unclamped from an A-frame trolley on a ute tray, it fell suddenly, crushing the injured worker. He suffered traumatic injuries, including a severed spinal cord, and broken back and neck and will remain a paraplegic for life.

The court heard the manual handling system of work and the Safe Work Method Statement that Willis Bros had in place on the day of the incident were inadequate.

It was also found that management had rejected regular requests from its workers to provide mechanical aids to assist with moving slabs.

Furthermore, the court heard the company had fostered a culture where employees felt pressured, under threat of termination, to complete tasks by set deadlines, even if that meant contravening the occupational health and safety requirements.

The injured worker would never walk again because his employer failed to implement correct procedures and promote a safety-first culture, said WorkSafe Victoria executive director of health and safety, Narelle Beer.

“The horrific injuries this worker suffered have irreparably changed his life and impacted his family and colleagues,” Beer said.

“This incident need not have happened and is an unfortunate reminder for employers as to the critical importance of having correct procedures and safe systems of work in place.”