Pilkington fined over workplace death

Glass manufacturer Pilkington has been fined $310,000 over the death of a Melbourne man crushed by eight tonnes of glass that toppled from a forklift.

Hung Nguyen Huu, 40, who had worked at the company for 17 years, was directing the forklift driver in a warehouse at the factory at Dandenong, in Melbourne's south-east, on November 10, 2001.The forklift was carrying four packs of glass sheets which weighed almost two tonnes each.As the forklift was reversing the load toppled forward, crushing Mr Huu, a father of five, who was in front of the forklift.The Australian Worker's Union has compared the penalty to a speeding fine.In terms of Pilkington's global budget, it amounts to a corporate speeding fine," union secretary Bill Shorten said.

"Compare it to the penalty Mr Hu has paid for the company's negligence," he said.

"We can never be satisfied with an outcome in a situation where a worker has died.

"However, we do hope this fine will serve as a warning to their employers that their first priority must be ensuring a safe working environment for their employees," Mr Shorten said.

Worksafe Victoria said the fine was one of the highest yet imposed in the state.

WorkSafe's manufacturing, logistics and agriculture director, Trevor Martin, said companies should work to prevent accidents.

"The improvement work, safe systems and proper planning and supervision should all have been in place. If they had, this man would not have died.

"It won't be intended, but equally, it won't be an 'accident' as these tragedies can be prevented.

"Forklifts are one of the most common machines in Victorian workplaces and have been involved in the deaths of 54 Victorians since 1985 and injured many more," he said.

Pilkington Operations Ltd pleaded guilty to two counts of failing to provide a safe working environment.

Last month, the Victorian County Court was told that the straps used to secure the glass sheets on the forklift were not adequate, the overhead crane normally used to move the glass sheets was not available and the forklift was used instead.

Judge Michael Bourke today fined Pilkington $310,000.

Pilkington spokesman Russell Howard said today the company deeply regretted the accident and continued to support Mr Huu's family.

Mr Howard said the safety of all its 1350 Australian workers was the company's highest priority and it would continue to invest in measures to make it an injury-free workplace.

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