Failure to maintain and inspect equipment leads to its collapse
The importance of having a regular maintenance and inspection program for plant and equipment was highlighted in a recent prosecution of a Victorian company in relation to the partial collapse of its storage racking system.
J.D.K Management Pty Ltd (J.D.K) operated a coolstore (refrigerated storage), which stored cheese in pallets that were stacked into a racking system. The racking system in the coolstore was a drive-in racking system. This meant that forklifts would drive the cheese pallets into the empty racks. J.D.K’s racking system had a considerable amount of pre-existing damage, and employees had informed the supervisor and director of J.D.K that the racking system was damaged.
J.D.K did not have an annual inspection of the packing system, contrary to the recommendations in Australian Standard (AS) 484-2012 (Steel storage racking).
On 24 June 2021, two employees – a forklift driver and a supervisor – moved loads of pallets from the racking system in the coolstore. About 15 minutes after the employees left the coolstore, they heard a loud bang. When they re-entered the coolstore, the employees discovered that the racking system on the west aisle had collapsed. Luckily, no one was injured as the coolstore was unoccupied at the time.
WorkSafe Victoria’s investigation revealed that parts of the racking system was damaged, faulty and poorly installed. WorkSafe’s position was that if the racks had been professionally inspected, J.D.K would have been directed to immediately unload parts of the racking system.
J.D.K was charged with failing to provide and maintain a working environment that was safe and without risks to health.
J.D.K pleaded guilty to the charge and was ordered to be placed on a good behaviour bond for 12 months with the condition of paying $10,000 to the Court Fund and paying WorkSafe Victoria’s costs of $3,986.
The Court found that the racking system was an “accident waiting to happen” and the risk to employees was obvious. Although the area where the incident occurred was a forklift-only area, forklift drivers did not always remain in their vehicles and often ventured on foot into these areas, thereby exposing them to a risk of serious injury or death.
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