Published: 29/01/2012

Fonterra Australia was convicted and fined $ 300,000 in the Melbourne County Court on October 2011 following a death of a worker due to unsafe storage practices at its cheese factory on September 2009

At its factory at Stanhope in county Victoria, Fonterra was operating an unsafe stacking system for bulk bags of salt which caused the death of 52 years old forklift driver John Harrap.

The judge of the County Court said the system was inherently unsafe because the stacks would become unstable if one of the bags in the stack was punctured or shifted and some Fonterra employees refused to walk between the pallets because they feared being crushed.

He said it was not until after the man’s death that a safe racking system was put in place and a written procedure developed.

This is not the first guilty record of Fonterra on safety measures. Just a month earlier on August 2009 a worker from a contractor was killed at a Fonterra plant in NZ. He has been crushed to death while working in an elevator shaft at the Fonterra plant in Southland.

Another fatal accident took place at New Plymouth where Theodorus (Theo) Rangihuna Blake, 52, was crushed in a hydraulic palletiser press at the Fonterra Whareroa plant, south of Hawera, on January 17, 2009 and died from head and chest injuries. Fonterra has been fined $73,000 and ordered to pay $116,000 to the family of the worker killed at its Whareroa site .

The Hawera District Court heard there had been two earlier accidents that prompted Fonterra to carry out a safe report on the palletiser which assessed its risk as “potentially fatal” and included recommendations such as guarding.

Considering the worrying number of fatal accidents at its plants, The Fonterra Cooperative Group should take all practicable steps to better ensure the safety of all employees.

IUF and its members organized at Fonterra operations call on the company to engage in serious dialogue with trade unions on health and safety measures throughout its operations and put more measures into the collective bargaining agreements regulating better rules of safety practices.