Safety alert issued after fast food employee struck on the head by falling boxes

WorkSafe Victoria recently issued a safety alert about the health and safety risks of stacking boxes in cold rooms following an incident in which a young employee was struck on the head by falling boxes.

The employee, who was restocking a cold room in a fast food restaurant, suffered a concussion and needed medical treatment. The boxes of frozen fries and patties weighed up to 16kg each and were stacked about 2 metres high.

Restocking boxes in cold rooms can lead to a risk of injury, and the safety alert noted that, without the appropriate controls in place, there’s a risk of hazardous manual handling, which can cause musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs), and/or being struck or crushed by falling boxes.

Furthermore, handling boxes in cold rooms can become hazardous manual handling as employees are:

  • using repeated and high force
  • putting their body in awkward postures
  • working with boxes stacked above shoulder height
  • working with boxes that are hard to grip
  • working in cold temperatures, which can restrict mobility and grip

The alert provided a number of recommended ways to control risks associated with restocking cold rooms.

  • Place smaller orders to avoid overstocking cold rooms. This will also lessen the amount of manual handling needed per delivery.
  • Regularly check shelves to make sure they’re sound and stable.
  • Work with suppliers to design boxes that are easier to handle. For example, boxes with cut-out handles.
  • Make sure the boxes can fit on shelves without sticking out.
  • Put frequently used boxes somewhere easy to access. Use raised platforms or shelves to make it easier to access boxes.
  • Put heavier boxes at a height that is easy to access. Employees shouldn’t need to reach up or crouch down to access a box.
  • If possible, add another cold room to reduce the amount of stock in one room.
  • Talk to suppliers to see if delivery drivers can help store away boxes using mechanical aids. This will mean less double handling of boxes.
  • Have clear pathways in cold rooms.
  • Use mechanical aids like trolleys when restocking shelves.
  • Provide protective gear, such as thermal gloves, to employees who go into cold rooms.

Employers also have duties under the Occupational Health and Safety Regulations 2017. These include:

  • Identifying any hazardous manual handling an employee has done or will do.
  • Eliminating any risk of MSDs associated with hazardous manual handling, so far as is reasonably practicable.
  • If it is not reasonably practicable to eliminate the risk of MSDs, reducing the risk so far as is reasonably practicable by:
    • altering the workplace layout, environment or systems of work
    • changing the things used in hazardous manual handling
    • using mechanical aids
    • combining any of the above risk control measures