Group Manufacturing Victoria Pty Ltd (trading as Willis Bros) was convicted and fined $85,000 in the Broadmeadows Magistrates‘ Court last week 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 was also ordered to pay costs of $4,406. The court heard that an employee of Willis Bros was left paralysed after being crushed by a 250–280kg stone slab at a Wyndham Vale construction site in October 2019.
The worker and a colleague had attempted to install the 3m x 2m kitchen island stone slab without a third person to assist them, and when it was unclamped from an A–frame trolley on a ute tray, it fell suddenly and caused the worker to suffer traumatic injuries, including a severed spinal cord, broken back and neck.
It was found that 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, and management had also rejected requests from its employees for mechanical aids to assist with moving slabs.
Furthermore, the court heard that 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.
WorkSafe Executive Director of Health and Safety Narelle Beer commented that the injured worker would never walk again due to the failure of Willis Bros to implement the correct procedures and promote a safety–first culture. “The horrific injuries this worker suffered have irreparably changed his life and impacted his family and colleagues,” she 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.”