20 February 2023

Capitol Chilled Foods fined $300,000 over forklift accident that shattered employee's leg

| Albert McKnight
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Still images of forklift hitting a man

This screenshot of CCTV footage shows the moments before a forklift crashed into a delivery driver at Capitol Chilled Foods. Image: Supplied.

CONTENT WARNING: This article contains footage some may find confronting.

A $300,000 fine has been handed to a Bega-owned company after a delivery driver’s leg was broken in six places when a forklift crashed into him.

The risk of a worker being seriously injured or killed by being struck by a vehicle was “known to the defendant and foreseeable”, Magistrate James Lawton said when he handed down his decision in the ACT Magistrates Court on Thursday (16 February).

Matthew Thompson was unloading crates from the back of a van at Capitol Chilled Foods in March 2021 when the forklift crashed into him from behind, shown in closed-circuit television footage previously screened to the court.

“One minute I was working and the next I was on the ground in extreme pain,” the court has previously heard Mr Thompson say.

Capitol Chilled Foods, which had recently been taken over by the company that owns the famous Bega Cheese, pleaded guilty to and was convicted on a charge of failing to comply with a health and safety duty, risking death or serious injury.

Magistrate Lawton said it did have a traffic management protocol in place, but this didn’t deal with the back dock area of its site where the accident happened.

READ ALSO Family of employee killed at UC Hospital worksite say court process was ‘heart-breaking’

The company admitted it not only failed to provide adequate information and training to its workers but also that it failed to provide adequate supervision.

Magistrate Lawton found the likelihood of the risk manifesting was high and the risk was a result of the company’s failure to establish safety procedures.

Implementing those procedures would not have been burdensome, he said.

Magistrate Lawton said Capitol Chilled Foods had no prior convictions but the evidence of Bega’s good character was not relevant to the sentencing.

He noted the company had taken steps to address the situation after the accident, including implementing measures to ensure the risk was minimised in the future.

WorkSafe ACT said it was traumatic for everyone involved to relive the details of incidents like this in court.

“However, this is a vital step in ensuring duty holders are held to account,” it said.

“What happened to Mr Thompson shouldn’t happen to any worker, any family, any community.”

READ ALSO Multiplex fined $150,000 after death of employee at UC Hospital worksite

WorkSafe ACT’s Commissioner Jacqueline Agius said the sentencing reflected the seriousness of the incident and the importance of work health and safety at every workplace.

“Today’s sentencing gives a clear message to all duty holders: they must comply with their work health and safety obligations and, if they don’t, they will be held to account,” she said.

“Serious injuries and incidents are preventable, which is why work health and safety practices must be a priority in every workplace, at every time and for every worker.”

Bega was contacted for comment.

Original Article published by Albert McKnight on Riotact.

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