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Linfox fined $150,000 for OHS breach

Linfox fined $150,000 for breaching OHS law after an employee was crushed by a forklift

By Brad Gardner | August 4, 2010

Linfox has been fined $150,000 for breaching occupational health and safety law after one of its employees was severely crushed by a forklift in December 2007.

The Federal Court of Australia has ruled that Linfox failed to take reasonable steps to ensure a safe working environment at the company’s Welshpool depot in Western Australia.

The court was told forklift operators had to carry containers at an unsafe height due to congestion at the depot restricting the ability to move stock around.

Bradley Jacobs was carting a container more than four metres higher than the maximum limit when it struck a nearby stack, causing the forklift to flip forward onto its roof and trapping him in the cabin.

Judge Neil McKerracher says Linfox was told on four occasions about the risk of congestion but did not proactively identify and assess the danger to staff.

“…the risk of injury due to congestion in the container yard was identified but an adequate response was not taken to the risk by Linfox until after the incident,” McKerracher says.

“…there were reasonably practicable steps that Linfox could have taken which, if taken, would have enabled the maintenance of a safe working environment, including plant and systems of work, that were safe for its employees and without risk to their health.”

McKerracher cited a lack of adequate supervision at the site and an absence of skilled and qualified supervisors.

Linfox accepted liability for the accident and has since taken steps to remove health and safety risks at the Welshpool site.

Jacobs was hospitalised for more than four months after the incident and spent three weeks in an induced coma.

He had a metal rod fitted to his right leg after the accident caused the bone to protrude from the skin.

“He has been informed that the rod could break at any time and would stick out of his leg just below his knee,” McKerracher says.

Jacobs also had frames and pins fitted to his left leg.

“In total he has had 33 operations on his legs in the past two years,” McKerracher says.

The accident caused severe lacerations to Jacobs’ left arm, damaging tendons and nerves and leaving him with no mobility or strength in his four fingers.

“A section of flesh was transferred from his abdomen to his left arm. As a result, Mr Jacobs states that the muscles in his stomach are off-centre and his stomach is numb around the scar of his abdomen.”

McKerracher says Jacobs had to use a wheelchair for two months, suffered from severe depression and is disfigured from skin grafts.

He also suffers from a bad limp and struggles with pain when putting weight on his right knee.

“He used to enjoy kicking the football with his grandchildren. There is no way he can do that now,” McKerracher says.

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