MC Pipes fined after employee seriously injured

By Liz Mellino

Midland Pipes has been fined $80 000 without conviction after an employee suffered serious injuries from being knocked to the ground by a forklift in 2017.

The concrete pipe manufacturer faced the Shepparton Magistrates' Court yesterday alongside its partner, Warburton National Investment, with both pleading guilty to one charge of failing to provide and maintain a safe working environment.

The court heard Midland Pipes and Warburton National Investment formed a partnership in 2011, trading as MC Pipes in Shepparton.

WorkSafe prosecutor Leigh Crosbie told the court on May 8, 2017 a forklift fitted with a pipe mould attachment was travelling across the factory floor carrying a large pipe.

Due to the attachment, the driver's vision was obscured and he was unable to clearly see where he was going.

The court heard an employee was walking across the factory floor at the same time when the forklift collided with her, knocking her to the ground.

She suffered fractures to the skull and eye sockets as well as an injury to her brain.

Mr Crosbie told the court WorkSafe inspectors attended the factory on the day of the incident, where a number of photos were taken and an improvement notice issued.

WorkSafe inspectors returned to the site on June 20, deeming the business compliant.

Defence counsel for Midland Pipes Marcus Dempsey said the business manner of the company, which had no prior convictions, was reflected in its actions following the incident.

"All that could be done to rectify the risk had been done promptly, thoughtfully and with a great degree of care and attention," he said.

He said Midland Pipes took serious responsibility, installing a number of safety measures after the incident as well as paying the victim for any financial shortfall.

Mr Dempsey referred to the victim impact statement, which was tendered in court, as "free of vindictiveness", saying this reflected the way the victim was treated prior to the incident.

Defence counsel for Warburton National Investment Alexander Sheed-Fink told the court company director Brett Warburton was a community contributor.

He said Mr Warburton "was very distressed by the incident" and ensured monetary contributions were made to the victim along with assisting to drive the victim to her hospital appointments.

Mr Sheed-Fink pointed out that the victim impact statement did not say anything negative about the directors or Mr Warburton, which he said reflects Mr Warburton "did what he could do to assist after the incident".

When sentencing, Magistrate David Faram acknowledged the ongoing and long-term consequences of the injuries for the victim.

He said the charges related to the defendants failing to ensure that the risk of a powered mobile plant colliding with pedestrians or other powered mobile plants was eliminated or reduced.

"The risk associated with this operation and operation of the forklift in these circumstances in my view is obvious ... these injuries should never have occurred in the workplace," Mr Faram said.

He acknowledged the companies implemented the traffic management plan and addressed the issues outlined within a short period of time, which included introducing speed limiters, ensuring forklifts with pipe mould attachments travel in reverse and training procedures in relation to the traffic management plan.

He referred to the companies' actions following the incident as those of a "model employer", including providing the victim with financial resources to which she was "so clearly entitled".

Mr Faram fined Midland Pipes $80 000 without conviction and ordered it to pay $1796 to WorkSafe Victoria.

Warburton National Investment was fined $20 000 without conviction and ordered to pay $1796 to WorkSafe Victoria.