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Copper tube manufacturer fined for worker’s injuries

CANADA: A manufacturer of copper refrigeration tube has been fined CA$75,000 (€50,500) after a worker was injured by falling tube bundles.

Ontario-based Great Lakes Copper, a subsidiary of Mueller Industries, was also hit with a 25% victim fine surcharge to a special provincial government fund to assist victims of crime.

The case before the provincial offences court in London, Ontario, concerned an incident on November 4, 2019 involving a worker from a temporary help agency and a second worker working in the company’s warehouse retrieving stock and preparing it for shipping.

Operating the forklift, the second worker lifted a bundle of copper tubes into a tube rack on a weigh scale, while the temporary worker was on foot, working between the weigh scale and a desk. 

Once the bundles were weighed and apportioned, the temporary worker wrapped two slings around the bundles, one at each end, and attached them to the forklift extension. Intending to maintain a tight bundle, a third “cinch strap” was added to the middle of the bundle.

The cinch strap was placed loosely over the top of the bundle after the forklift had already started lifting it. However, due to the height of the lift at the time, the temporary worker did not see that the strap had also been thrown around the fixed frame of the tube rack on the scale. The second worker raised the lift further, which now consisted of the tubing bundle and the tube rack.

The second worker could see the rack was tipping and began to lower the lift. However, the cinch strap released, causing the bundle and tube rack to fall and strike the temporary worker, who was knocked into a nearby desk and onto the floor where the worker was pinned. The tube rack and tube bundle pinning the worker weighed about 1,300lb (590kg). The worker suffered injuries.

Great Lakes Copper is said to have had a standard operating procedure (SOP) for picking straight stock, and the workers had been trained on this SOP. However, the SOP did not address the step of adding a cinch strap to bundles being lifted, despite the fact that the schematic in the SOP shows a cinch strap on a bundle. It was the general practice among workers to add a cinch strap, but they had not been trained on how to do so safely and the cinch strap had sometimes been caught on the tube rack frame during previous lifts.

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