Tuesday 26th July 2016
Company fined $800,000 for
worker death ‘shows no remorse’
|In today's Health & Safety Bulletin:|
|A Melbourne recycling company that tried to deregister itself to avoid prosecution after one of its employees was crushed to death under a homemade lifting device has been convicted and fined $800,000 in the County Court.|
Following the jury’s guilty verdict, the court was told that the heads of the company - director Daniel Guisasola, his wife Marisa Giucamelli and their son Leandro Guisasola, who was the company manager - had started up a company called High Heat Pty Ltd in May 2015, making similar products to Australian Box Recycling.
That was just nine months after the fatal incident. Australian Box Recycling turned used unwaxed cardboard boxes into briquettes while waxed boxes in a suitable condition were redistributed.
Illegal attempt to avoid conviction
The Court also was told that the Australian Box Recycling advised WorkSafe that it was not going to take part in court proceedings and intended to cease trading. It then tried to deregister itself which, under the Corporations Act 2001, is not permitted while legal proceedings are underway.
WorkSafe successfully applied to the Supreme Court to have the company re-registered so the case could continue.
Prosecutor Dr Gregory Lyon QC, appearing for the Director of Public Prosecutions, told Judge Wischusen that the failure of Australian Box Recycling to take part in court proceedings and for its owners to start up a similar company highlighted their lack of remorse.
Earlier, the jury had been told that Australian Box Recycling operated a box recycling business in Campbellfield, which received used boxes from suppliers such as supermarkets and whitegoods retailers. Unwaxed boxes were recycled into briquettes, and waxed boxes in suitable condition were redistributed for re-use.
The jury was told that Leandro had made a “box stacking lift”, which was used to create more space at the workplace. The box stacking lift comprised a cage in which boxes were placed and then raised enable more boxes to be stacked underneath them.
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But the lift had a design fault – it couldn’t descend until operators removed the rear supporting cross bar, meaning they had to walk under the lift to do this and there was no mechanical bar to break the lift’s descent in the case of hoist or cable failure – which is what happened on 22 August 2014.
Worker Steve Bower was attempting to remove the rear supporting cross bar when the lift cable snapped and the 240kg load fell and crushed him.
Workers in extreme danger daily
WorkSafe’s Executive Director of Health and Safety, Marnie Williams, said: “Employees were put in extreme danger every time they used [the lift], and every day the risk of tragedy increased until one of their workers paid the ultimate price.”
She added that Australian Box Recycling had shown an appalling disregard for the safety of all employees who used the lift.
Ms Williams said Daniel and Leandro Guisasola also deserved public condemnation for their actions since the incident.
“Their attempt to wash their hands of their responsibilities by shutting down the company once charges were laid, refusing to take part in court proceedings, and starting up a similar company just nine months after their employee died is utterly contemptible and should be condemned,” she said.
Errors in judgement
There were a number of errors made by the company that jeopardised workers’ safety – most, if not all, would have been detected by a robust health and safety regime and a culture of workplace safety.
While your business may not have home-made equipment putting workers at risk, is it time to take a critical look around workplace and check the status of your equipment for missing or damaged guards, for worn parts, for electrical hazards, for racking and materials storage.
What else should you check and how should you advise your workers to report hazards?
For help and advice in these areas, including safe working methods and safety systems, subscribe to the Health & Safety Handbook. Written by the legal experts at Holding Redlich, the handbook is designed to help you keep your workers safe and avoid the type of fine handed out by the Court to Australia Box Recyclers.
Also, the handbook outlines the penalties for health & safety breaches and, importantly, how to legally avoid them.
Arrange for your copy today on an obligation-free trial and start making your workplace safer.
Keep up the good work,
Editor, Health & Safety Bulletin
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