WA: tyre company and director fined $70,000 over unsafe workplace

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Date: 
Tuesday, 13 October, 2020 - 01:45
Category: 
Incidents & prosecutions
Location: 
Western Australia

A tyre company and one of its directors have been fined a total of $70,000 (and ordered to pay $1,071 in costs) for failing to provide a safe work environment at their Malaga tyre outlet.

Vannevar Pty Ltd (trading as Townsend International Tyres) recently pleaded guilty to a charge of failing to provide and maintain a safe work environment and was fined $50,000 in the Perth Magistrates Court.

Company director Morrie Bursztyn was charged separately on the basis that the offending of Vannevar Pty Ltd occurred with his consent or connivance or was attributable to his neglect. He pleaded guilty to the charge and was fined $20,000

At the time of the offence, when tyres were delivered to Townsend International Tyres they were stored in a three-level racking system with the third level sitting approximately 3.71 metres above the ground.

The method used for retrieving tyres from the upper levels involved a worker driving a forklift while another worker stood either on a pallet on the tines or directly on the tines and being lifted up to reach and retrieve tyres.

Falling from this height onto the concrete floor below could easily have resulted in serious injury or death.

After a complaint was received by WorkSafe in January 2017, an inspector visited the workplace and issued a prohibition notice banning workers from working from forklift tines to access tyres.

As manager of the workplace, Mr Bursztyn received the notice but did not display it as required, instead filing it away and not telling employees about it.

The following May another complaint was received, and an inspector conducted interviews with several employees who said that work from the forklift tines had not been ceased. A new prohibition notice was issued.

WorkSafe WA Commissioner Darren Kavanagh said the case should serve as a warning to employers that prohibition notices must be immediately complied with and must be displayed in the workplace.

“A prohibition notice requires an employer to cease a hazardous work practice and not restart work until a safe procedure has been put into place – and employees must be informed of this by display of the notice,” Kavanagh said.

“Mr Bursztyn not only chose to ignore the direction he had been given, but played an active role in directing employees to perform work unsafely.

“Despite his actual knowledge of the fall hazard and WorkSafe expressly prohibiting the unsafe system of work, Mr Bursztyn continued requiring the hazardous work to be done.

“It’s fortunate that no worker had a fall in this workplace and good to know that WorkSafe’s intervention at the workplace may have prevented a death or serious injury.

“After receiving the second prohibition notice, the company ceased its practice of working from the tines of a forklift, removed the third level of racking, reducing the rack height from 3.71 metres to 1.8 metres, and purchased a portable platform to access the second level. These measures were low cost and easy to implement.

“An alternative measure would have been to use a man cage on the forklift tines, which would have cost the company around $1,000 and allowed workers to be safely lifted.

“Falls from height are a major concern at WA workplaces, and are a priority area for WorkSafe. A Code of Practice has been in use since 2004, providing practical advice on the safe systems of work that should be in place where the risk of falls exists.

“Anyone who has a duty to prevent falls at workplaces should be following the Code of Practice – Prevention of falls from height at workplaces.”