A Newcastle company has been fined $600,000 and ordered to pay WorkCover NSW’s legal costs after a worker was fatally injured by falling aluminium containers weighing more than one ton at the company’s warehouse.
The fine of $350,000 for a breach of section 8 (1) of the Occupational Health & Safety Act 2000 is one of the largest ever penalties imposed on a company for a single charge. The company was also convicted of a second charge for breach of section 8 (2) of the Act and fined $250,000. The total penalty imposed was $600,000.
Ullrich Aluminium produces a range of aluminium products for marine, industrial, commercial and domestic uses and has a large storage facility in Mayfield West, Newcastle.
On 3 September 2007, a 27-year-old employee of Ullrich Aluminium was working between bulk storage racks when around 8 to 10 cases of alumina products, weighing approximately one ton, fell on him.
The products fell while they were being repositioned by a second worker using a crane.
This was the second time a worker from Ullrich had died due to unsafe work practices, which had a bearing on the size of penalty.
In December 1998 Ullrich, trading as Ullrich Noyes Metals was convicted of offences arising from the death of Darren Gascoigne at its Smithfield plant in Western Sydney in 1996.
The WorkCover investigation found that the company had failed to: ensure the bulk storage racks used by workers were safe; carry out a site-specific risk assessment identifying the possibility of collapse of the containers; address the risks it knew existed including the unstable containers and the possibility of collapse; and provide appropriate safe systems of work including proper information and training to employees about operating the crane and entering the bulk storage racks.
John Watson, general manager of the work health and safety division for WorkCover NSW, said the risks to the employee’s safety were entirely foreseeable and the incident was preventable and should never have happened.
“The risk of harm that existed in this instance was known to the defendant from the previous incident that occurred. The steps that should have been taken to ensure safety were not taken,” he said.
Charges against the director of the company, Gilbert Ullrich, are still before the court.