SA: Woolworths Group fined $120,000 over bakery trolley injury

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, 30 March, 2021 - 12:30
Incidents & prosecutions
South Australia

Woolworths Group was recently fined $120,000 over an incident in which a bakery trolley fell onto a worker causing serious injuries.

In August 2018, a worker was moving a two-metre high bakery trolley, which had been loaded with bread products from the supermarket bakery department.

As the worker was walking backwards and manoeuvring the trolley, the trolley wheel jammed, causing the worker to fall backwards and the trolley to fall on to her.

The worker sustained fractures to her sternum, lumbar vertebrae, and tibia, as well as soft tissue injuries.

SafeWork SA identified that the wheels of the trolley showed signs of deterioration which compromised movement and was top-heavy.

This resulted in little force enabling it to topple.

Woolworths did not have a system for inspection and maintenance of bakery trolleys, despite having maintenance processes for other equipment.

Woolworths Group pleaded guilty in the South Australian Employment Tribunal (SAET) for breaches of duties under section 32 of the Work Health and Safety Act 2012 (SA).

The SAET convicted Woolworths Group Ltd and imposed a fine of $120,000 before applying a 40 per cent discount for an early guilty plea.

Employers have a primary duty to provide a safe working environment to workers, including equipment required in the course of their work, said SafeWork SA executive director, Martyn Campbell.

“No matter what equipment you are using, big or small, all equipment should be regularly inspected and maintained to ensure the health and safety of workers,” said Campbell.

In sentencing, Deputy President Magistrate Cole accepted the defendant’s contrition, the support offered to the injured worker, and that the defendant “took immediate action to remove all of the comparable bakery trolleys, and then in a timely manner implemented a system of inspection and maintenance for its bakery trolleys”.