A Melbourne recycling company that went out of business soon after one of its employees was crushed to death under a homemade lifting device has been convicted and fined $800,000 in the County Court.
Australian Box Recycling was found guilty by a jury of one breach of the 2004 OHS Act in that it failed to provide and maintain safe plant.
The four-day trial took place despite the company refusing to be involved.
After it was charged, it advised WorkSafe that it was not going to take part in court proceedings and intended to cease trading. It then tried to deregister which, under the Corporations Act 2001, is not permitted while legal proceedings are in train.
WorkSafe successfully applied to the Supreme Court to have the company re-registered so the case could continue.
The trial was allowed to proceed because the court said it was satisfied the company was aware of the proceedings and had made a deliberate decision not to participate.
Following the jury’s guilty verdict last week, the court was told that the key players in the company - director Daniel Guisasola, his wife Marisa Giucamelli and their son Leandro Guisasola - had started up a company called High Heat Pty Ltd in May 2015 making similar products to Australian Box Recycling.
Prosecutor Dr Gregory Lyon QC, appearing on behalf of the Director of Public Prosecutions, told Judge Wischusen that the failure of Australian Box Recycling to take part in court proceedings and for its owners to start up a similar company highlighted their lack of remorse.
Earlier, the jury had been told that Australian Box Recycling operated a box recycling business in Campbellfield, which received used boxes from suppliers such as supermarkets. Unwaxed boxes were recycled into briquettes, and waxed boxes in suitable condition were redistributed to customers for re-use.
The company was run by Daniel Guisasola and his son Leandro, who described himself as the company manager.
The jury was told that Leandro had made a “box stacking lift” which was used at the workplace, apparently to try and create extra space. Boxes would be placed in the lift cage, which was then lifted up, so more boxes could be stacked underneath it.
The design of the lift meant the operator had to walk beneath it to remove the rear supporting cross bar to allow the lift to descend. However, there was no mechanical bar to break the lift’s descent in the case of hoist or cable failure.
On 22 August 2014 an employee operating the lift was attempting to remove the rear supporting cross bar when the lift cable holding the suspended load of boxes snapped and the lift fell on him.
WorkSafe’s Executive Director of Health and Safety, Marnie Williams, said Australian Box Recycling had shown an appalling disregard for the safety of all employees who used the lift.
“The lift design was fatally flawed. It forced employees to work underneath it whenever it was used, and it had no mechanical safety measures to protect the operator if it failed,” Ms Williams said.
“Employees were put in extreme danger every time they used it, and every day the risk of tragedy increased until one of their workers paid the ultimate price.”
Ms Williams said Daniel and Leandro Guisasola also deserved public condemnation for their actions since the incident.
“Their attempt to wash their hands of their responsibilities by shutting down the company once charges were laid, refusing to take part in court proceedings, and starting up a similar company just nine months after their employee died is utterly contemptible and should be condemned,” she said.
Public enquiries: Call the WorkSafe Advisory Service on 1800 136 089 between 8:30am and 5pm Monday to Friday, email firstname.lastname@example.org or write to Advisory Service, PO Box 4306, Melbourne, 3001.