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Prosecution Details

Defendant Super A-Mart Pty Ltd (ACN 009 810 324)
Section 19(1) & 19A(3)
Offence Date 18 August 2011
Description of Breach(es)

The Accused, being an employer, failed so far as is practicable to provide and maintain a working environment in which the employees of the Accused were not exposed to hazards contrary to section 19(1) and 19A(3) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act 1984.

Background Details

The Accused is a national furniture retailer that, at the time of the incident, operated four stores in Western Australia.  One of those is the Cockburn store which is located at 87 Armadale Road, Cockburn (Cockburn Store).

The Cockburn Store contains a show room, an office area and a dispatch warehouse.

The following employees of the Accused work in the dispatch warehouse:

(a)           Storeman 1;

(b)           Dispatch Manager;

(c)           Store Manager;

(d)           Storeman 2;

(e)           Storeman 3;

(f)            2nd in charge, Dispatch Manager.

The dispatch area contains a set of large metal racks that are approximately 2 metres in width and 6 metres in height.

The bays within the racks are used to store furniture and bedding product.

The Accused has two order pickers which are used by the Accused's employees to load and unload the racks.

On 18 August 2011, Storeman 1 and Storeman 2 were working together loading and unloading stock in and from the racks using the order picker (Order Picker).

Storeman 1 was operating the Order Picker and stood near the controls near the rear of the platform.

Storeman 2 was assisting Storeman 1 and stood near the front of the platform.

Both Storeman 1 and Storeman 2 were wearing harnesses.

Storeman 1 had lowered the platform to the ground when the 2nd in charge Dispatch Manager, using a forklift, placed a load of stock mainly consisting of bedding products (Bedding), on the platform to be loaded in to the racks.

Storeman 1 drove the Order Picker to aisle A of the racks and raised the platform to a height of 6 metres where he intended to place the Bedding.

The area where the Bedding was to be placed in the racks was already quite full with stock, mainly study bunks (Study Bunks). Storeman 1 and Storeman 2 decided they would remove the Study Bunks from that location and place them in another rack in order to make room for the Bedding.

Storeman 1 and Storeman 2 removed some of the Study Bunks from the rack and placed it on the platform next to the Bedding.

Storeman 1 lowered the platform and drove the Order Picker up the aisle to about the third bay.  At that point he raised the platform to 6 metres where the two storemen, 1 and 2, unloaded the Study Bunks off of the platform and placed them in the racks.

Having moved one load of Study Bunks, Storeman 1 moved the Order Picker back up to collect a second load of Study Bunks. The Bedding remained on the Order Picker at this time.

Storeman 1 and Storeman 2 started to load more of the Study Bunks off of the rack and place them on the platform next to the Bedding when they realised that the platform had begun to move unnaturally.

At this point, both Storeman 1 and Storeman 2 realised that the Order Picker was going to topple over.

The Order Picker fell forwards until the front edge of the platform struck the ground.

As a result of the fall, Storeman 1 suffered minor injuries including cuts and bruising to his right arm.

As a result of the fall, Storeman 2 suffered injuries including a laceration to his right arm and significant bruising to his right arm.  The laceration is described as 6 - 8cm horizontal wound to a level of the fascia subcutaneous fat.  He was presented to the Emergency Department of the Fremantle Hospital where he was admitted to theatre to have the wound washed out, debrided and closed. He was given an antibiotic (1g IV cephazolin), tetanus and course of pain killers (20 tablets of 5mg Oxynorm).

Thereafter, Storeman 2 attended plastic Surgeon for approximately one month where he received ongoing redressing and hand therapy for mobilisation.

Storeman 2 was off of work for 2 months as a result of his injuries.

Contributing factors

The Data Plate

Order pickers display a data plate which contains the following information:

(a)           model number;

(b)           serial number;

(c)           maximum lifting capacity;

(d)           dimensions;

(e)           load centre details;

(f)            battery weight;

(g)           truck weight; and

(h)           platform attachment details.

Australian Standard 2359.6-1995 - Powered Industrial Trucks Part 6: Safety Code provides that every order picker shall bear an identification plate that identifies:

  • a) the maximum lifting capacity at maximum elevation (paraphrased parts 5.1 and 5.1.2); and
  • b) the rated capacity of any attachment (paraphrased parts 5.1 and 5.2).

If any modifications are made to an order picker that affects the accuracy of the information contained on the data plate, the data plate must be updated.

The update to the data plate is usually performed by the manufacturer of the order picker.

The Order Picker was supplied to the Accused without a platform.

After the supply of the Order Picker, the Accused engaged a third party to fabricate a platform and attach it to the Order Picker.

Following the attachment of the platform to the Order Picker the Accused did not request the manufacturer or any other party to update to the data plate.

The platform weighed approximately 200kg.

The data plate displayed a lifting capacity of 500kg. That lifting capacity should have, but did not account for the weight of the platform. Therefore, the true lifting capacity of the Order Picker was approximately 300kg.

The total weight of the stock (Bedding and Study Bunks) placed on the platform on 18 August 2011 was 682kg. In addition, the combined weight of Storeman 1 and Storeman 2 is estimated at 150kg - 200kg.

On 18 August 2011 the Order Picker was overloaded by at least 532kg.

The System of Work

The Accused had a system of work in place for measuring the weight of the stock to be placed on the Order Picker.

That system of work was for the employees to weigh the stock on the forklift prior to placing them on the Order Picker.

The forklift contained digital scales. Those scales informed the driver of the forklift of the weight of the stock on the forklift.

The extent to which that system of work was communicated to the employees is unclear. Some employees of the Accused state that there was a system of work in place that required the forklift driver to consider the weight of the stock shown on the scales of the forklift prior to placing them on the Order Picker.

In regards to the Accused's system of work to check the weight of the stock on the scales of the forklift:

(a)     the 2nd in charge Dispatch Manager states:

(i)      "This system has always been in place but it is stricter now since the accident".

(b)    Storeman 1 states:

(i)      "I do not know the weight of the load that was put on the platform of the order picker";

(ii)     "We never checked the weight of the load. I have never asked the question";

(iii)    "We do not have a system of weighing the stock before we put them on the order pickers"; and

(iv)    "Before the accident there were no strict guidelines in place to prevent overloading, but there is now...".

(c)     Storeman 2 states words to the effect (paraphrased):

(i)      you could measure the weight of the stock with the scales on the forklift;

(ii)     we never had time to do it, even if I was the driver of the forklift; and

(iii)    we never checked the weight.

(d)    The Dispatch Manager states:

(i)      "Before the accident there was a procedure in place about loading the platform. It was more common sense really. But there was nothing in writing"; and

(ii)     "Before the accident the scales on the forklift was the method that was used to measure the weight of the stock being placed on the platform".

(e)    The Store Manager states:

(i)      "Before we place stock on the platform we know the weight in advance. Because the stock come in on the forklift which has a built in scales on the forklift. This way we control and know the weight going on the platform".

(f)     Storeman 3 states:

(i)      "Before the accident when it came to putting the stock on the platform we didn't really check the weight. We just chucked the stock on the platform and didn't really worry about it"; and

(ii)     "Before the accident we did not have a way of measuring the weight of the stock being placed on the platform".

The system of work was not in writing and it is not clear whether there was any requirement for the forklift driver to communicate the weight of the stock to the persons operating the Order Picker.

The 2nd in charge Dispatch Manager was operating the forklift on 18 August 2011 and placed the Bedding on the Order Picker prior to it falling over. He did not check the weight of the stock on the scales of the forklift. He assessed the weight visually.

The system of work did not include any instructions to check the lifting capacity of the Order Picker.

The system of work did not include any instructions to assess the weight of stock being loaded on to the Order Picker that were not loaded by the forklift (as in this case, where the Study Bunks were taken from the racking).

Licensing and Training of order picker operators

Regulation 6.2 of the Occupational Safety and Health Regulations 1996 (WA) requires the operator of an Order Picker to hold a high risk work licence for that class of work.

As at 18 August 2011, Storeman 1 did not hold a high risk work licence to operate an order picker.

Storeman 2 obtained his high risk work licence the day before the accident, upon his own initiative and at his own cost.

By that stage, Storeman 2 had been operating the Order Picker for 3 months.

Part of the training provided in receiving a high risk work licence educates an operator to consider the lifting capacity of the Order Picker by referring to the data plate.

In addition to a high risk work licence, additional training is available to operators of order pickers to calculate the weight of stock to be placed on an order picker.

It is unclear whether any of the Accused's employees were trained to calculate the weight of stock before placing them on the Order Picker. However, it is clear that Storeman 1 and Storeman 2 were not trained in this way.

Practicable Measures

It was practicable for the Accused to have done the following:

  • a) ensured that the data plate on the Order Picker contained the correct information;
  • b) ensured that all employees that operated the Order Picker had obtained a high risk work licence; and
  • c) ensured that all employees were trained to calculate the weight of stock being placed on the Order Picker.

The Accused failed to take the practicable measures referred to in the paragraph  above.

The cost of obtaining the training for a high risk work licence is approximately $400 per student.

The costs of obtaining training on how to calculate the weight of stock is approximately $400 per student. This training can also be provided internally, if an employer has the knowledge.

At the time of the incident, the State and Federal Government was offering incentives to employers to have their employees trained in warehouse and storage skills. These incentives included subsidised training, pay role tax exemptions and worker's compensation rebates.

After the incident on 18 August2011, the Accused sent its employees (15 in total which includes employees from its 4 stores in Western Australia) to training to obtain a high risk work licence.

The Accused decommissioned the Order Picker. In respect of the remaining order pickers operated by the Accused, the Accused had a weight sensor device fitted to the order pickers which did not allow the order pickers to be operated if they were overloaded. These devices cost approximately $3,500 each.




Outcome Summary

The Accused entered a guilty plea and was convicted.

Conviction Date 06 Jun 2014
Court Magistrates Court of Western Australia - Fremantle
Fine $30,000.00
Costs $2057.00
Charge Number FR4668/14