Skip to content

Richmond box company fined $290K for fatal work injury

A forklift operator was struck by loaded pallets in 2022.
Loaded pallets of litho-laminated corrugated boxes at the Great Little Box Company's warehouse.

A packaging manufacturer based in Richmond was slapped with a $290,548 fine after a worker died from being struck by falling pallets.

According to WorkSafeBC's investigation report dated Jan. 22, 2024, the incident took place at The Great Little Box Company's (GLBC) warehouse on Eburne Way in Richmond on the morning of Dec. 7, 2022.

The warehouse worker had left the forklift while unstacking pallets of litho-laminated corrugated boxes to speak with co-workers.

The loaded pallets were stacked against a wall to a height of six loaded pallets at about 6.3 metres high, according to the report. The worker was tasked with unstacking two rows of loaded pallets and sorting them by date and had managed to remove the front row over the 10-day work period before the incident.

When the worker walked back to the area, before he managed to get into the forklift, he was struck by a bundle of two loaded pallets that fell from the stack against the wall.

There were no witnesses and the worker was discovered underneath a loaded pallet by other workers who heard the stacks fall over.

"The worker sustained serious injuries and later died," reads the redacted report.

WorkSafeBC imposed the administrative penalty on GLBC on April 30, 2024. 

Administrative penalties are calculated based on the size of the employer's payroll, the nature of the violation and the history of violations, according to WorkSafeBC's website. The statutory maximum penalty amount for 2024 is $783,068.26.

"A penalty is a regulatory tool to motivate employers to follow occupational health and safety requirements, but it is not meant as a means of punishment, since no amount could ever reflect something as tragic as a loss of life," explained WorkSafeBC in a statement to the Richmond News.

Unidentified risks and inconsistent incident reporting system, says WorkSafeBC report

Four main contributing factors were identified in the report: workers on foot were exposed to hazardous conditions, inadequate hazard identification and risk assessment, lack of stacking procedures provided to workers and inadequate supervision and training.

In the report, WorkSafeBC found the bundles of pallets had "several characteristics that made them inherently unstable," including slippery laminated surfaces, inconsistent palletization, poor unitization, missing slats on pallets, lack of straps around the bundles, rounded upper surfaces and changes due to humidity.

It added the removal of the front row of loaded pallets also left the back row "unstable."

The worker was exposed to the hazards when on foot without the protection of the forklift's overhead guard, according to the report, which also found the forklift did not have a backrest extension to allow for the safe transportation of a bundle of two loaded pallets.

The labels on the boxes were obscured as well, which meant some forklift operators had to leave the protection of their forklifts to check the labels.

The WorkSafeBC inspector also found GLBC failed to identify the hazardous conditions in the Eburne warehouse and the "unique hazards and handling requirements" that came with the loaded pallets of litho-laminated boxes.

While GLBC identified issues with the litho-laminated boxes, they were not taken into consideration for stacking the pallets, said WorkSafeBC.

No hazard identification and risk assessment was completed when the boxes were introduced to the warehouse and GLBC's incident and hazard reporting system did not offer consistent guidelines.

"As a result, there were many incidents of leaning stacks, stacks falling over and requiring re-palletization and incidents occurring overnight while the warehouse was closed that (redacted) did not report on (the system)," reads the report.

"The joint health and safety committee was therefore unaware of those incidents and hazards and was not able to properly identify the development of hazardous trends or to recommend corrective measures."

The company had identified measures to mitigate the risk of falling objects hitting forklift operators but did not fully implement or maintain them, the report added.

The third issue was the lack of a company-wide stacking policy, which could have offered guidance on potential methods and considerations based on the type of material being handled. GLBC had a policy for its Kelowna location, which was not distributed to other worksites.

Finally, WorkSafeBC found GLBC failed to ensure the warehouse's supervisor and logistics manager received adequate training to supervise the warehouse. Forklift operators also lacked training for stacking pallets loaded with litho-laminated boxes, and they handled the pallets in a similar manner to those loaded with other types of corrugated cardboard.

WorkSafeBC determined that GLBC violated the Occupational Health and Safety Regulation by failing to "stack or store material in a stable and secure manner."

Other violations of the regulation and Workers Compensation Act include the failure to provide training and instruction to its workers and ensure regular inspections are made of all workplaces to "prevent the development of unsafe working condition."

All violations were considered to be high risk.

Got an opinion on this story or any others in Richmond? Send us a letter or email your thoughts or story tips to [email protected]. To stay updated on Richmond news, sign up for our daily headline newsletter.