A Victorian metal fabrication company based in Rochester has been fined a massive $11,000 for failing to comply with three counts of safety Improvement Notices relating to forklift safety, reinforcing the importance of workplace safety in the plant.
Phil Fehring Engineering pleaded guilty in the Bendigo Magistrates Court last month to the three counts, which were issued in 2006. The company’s director, Phil Fehring, said in court that he had been incorrectly advised on the matter by a consultant. The compliance failures were related to operator restraints which WorkSafe Victoria ruled should be retrofitted to the engineering company’s forklifts.
The seatbelts were only fitted to the forklifts days before the court case, costing around $730 each.
According to WorkSafe Victoria, of the 56 forklift-related deaths since 1985, 11 were forklift operators who were crushed by the machine in a tip-over when they were thrown from, or jumped from, their seat. Australian Standards have required operator restraints on new forklifts since 1995. In fact, WorkSafe Victoria has also been urging Australian employers to retrofit seatbelts where reasonably practicable on all forklifts manufactured before 1995.
WorkSafe Victoria says that although companies can legally contest safety Improvement Notices, it will prosecute for non-compliance if the companies still do not comply after being thrown out.
The news acts as a sobering reminder of the importance of workplace safety in hard economic times.