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Retailers: beware manual handling risks

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WORKSAFE is sending a pre-Christmas warning to retailers to control manual handling risks.

The warning follows a Sale magistrate convicting and fining The Warehouse Group (Aust.) Pty Ltd (trading as 'Clint's Crazy Bargains) $50,000 this week, after safety breaches were observed by WorkSafe inspectors in May last year.

WorkSafe executive director John Merritt said the cost of treating 1285 reported musculo-skeletal injuries in the retail sector last financial year were likely to cost the community more than $55-million..

Mr Merritt said the cost of treating claims and the potential for long-term pain and suffering should remind employers that they need to ensure workers have systems in place that includes appropriate equipment and training to do their job safely.

"Injuries caused by manual handling are a significant drain on the WorkCover scheme," said Mr Merritt.

"By ensuring staff have the equipment and training to do their job, means they can be spared a serious injury which can last a lifetime.

"With many young people currently joining the workforce for the first time, the need to properly train them in all aspects of their work should be a priority."

WorkSafe prosecuted The Warehouse Group (Aust.) Pty Ltd after it pleaded guilty to one charge contrary to sections 21(1) and (2)(a) of the Occupational Health and Safety Act 1985.

WorkSafe told Sale magistrate John Dugdale stock handling procedures were inadequate.

The court was told that at the time of the May 2004 visit to the firm's Sale store by a WorkSafe inspector, there was no adequate means of lowering a pallet to access cartons stacked above head and shoulder height as stock was checked in.

As the load was removed from pallets, the store had no way of raising them to a safe work height, nor had manual handling issues within the store been addressed despite an employee previously sustaining an injury and WorkSafe intervention.

During the visit two workers complained that they had lower back pain and that the process of receiving stock lasted between four and six hours a day.

The company has now implemented safety improvements relating to manual handling.

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