In February 2018, three workers received severe lacerations when one of several large glass sheets in a racking system fell to the ground and shattered. It appears that one of two workers trying to restrain the glass sheets by hand was unable to support the weight of one of them. Another worker came to his assistance but was unable to prevent the sheet from falling. Investigations are continuing.
Preventing a similar incident
Sheet materials, such as glass sheets, windows or shower screens can fall if they are not adequately supported while being handled, moved or stored.
The risk of injuries is high when glass sheets are being handled or moved and the sheets are not adequately supported by suitable racking or transport frames. Workers or others in the immediate vicinity of stacked sheet materials are at risk of being crushed, trapped or cut by falling sheets of material. In addition, workers risk musculoskeletal injuries when they are required to manually balance stacks of sheets during sorting and handling.
Duty holders in the glass handling/manufacturing industry should consider a combination of engineering and administrative risk controls because relying on one system may not be effective:
- workers should never restrain glass by hand
- use a rack or transport frame to securely store, cradle, lift, transport and restrain sheets
- use mechanical lifting equipment whenever possible
- implement regimes for maintenance, inspection and testing of all racking and lifting equipment
- have a lifting plan
- avoid accessing sheets from the middle of the stack
- ensure support systems are designed for forces resulting from unbalanced loads
- ensure appropriate and adequate training and supervision of workers
- ensure workers wear appropriate PPE.
Prosecutions and compliance
In 2014, a glazing work and manufacturing business was fined $45,000, with a 12 month recognisance for a further $45,000, after a worker was seriously injured by falling glass sheets. The worker was unloading a container of glass shower screens when 37 sheets of glass (each weighing approximately 20kg) fell from an approximate height of 1200m, trapping him.
In 2013, a company was fined $45,000 after a worker sustained fractures to his left leg and shoulder and a deep laceration to his left leg. The worker was moving a pack of 30 screen doors weighing approximately 650kg with an overhead gantry crane. When removing the overhead capping some of the screen doors moved. He attempted to counteract the movement but the force pushed him backwards. More of the doors fell onto him causing the glass to shatter.