Aerial view of the Port of Tauranga.

Two Bay of Plenty companies have been fined a total of $55,000 following a worker’s death after being rolled and pushed nearly 20 metres by a forklift at Mt Maunganui in June 2010.

C3 Limited was fined $40,000 and Independent Stevedoring Limited was fined $15,000 at the Tauranga District Court.

The Department of Labour’s Bay of Plenty Service Manager Murray Thompson described the accident as horrific and preventable.

The incident happened at the Mount Maunganui wharf on 21st June last year while nearly six tonnes of pulp paper was being moved from a shed to the wharf.

At the time of the accident an employee of Independent Stevedoring Limited, Brian Kevin Shannon was returning from his break when he was struck by the forklift being driven by an employee of C3 Limited. Mr Shannon was pushed and rolled by the forklift for about 17 metres before the forklift driver realised something was wrong and stopped. Mr Shannon died at the scene.

“This sentencing is a reminder to all employers of their responsibility to take all practicable steps to ensure the safety of employees and any other person in the workplace,” Mr Thompson says.

“Practicable steps include developing and implementing a formal programme to regularly check employees’ high-visibility garments, and that forklifts are fitted with head lights that are visible over the top of the load being carried,” he says.

Comment

Something as simple as enforcing the wearing Viz vests by employees is often overlooked by employers who have gone a bit cold on some of the detail of health and safety after years of compliance.

It is easy for complacency to set in and as in the case in question at the Mount Maunganui wharf it can have tragic consequences.

The issue oflights on the forklift that shone over the load would normally have been picked up by even the most basic of active hazard management systems.

Two elements – personal protective equipment and hazard management which are at the heart of health and safety ended up being ignored.

Even experienced employees need regular refresher training in hazard management to keep the awareness levels up. The size of the fines in this case and the tragic loss of life don’t compare to a few hundred dollars once a year spent to help keep employees actively involved in health and safety.