1 - Hops grower fined $130k after worker killed
Neville Victor Handcock is an operational partner with his wife in a partnership that grows hops, which are planted in October and harvested around March each year by hand. Seasonal workers, employed to complete the harvest, travel to and from hop paddocks on tractor-towed hop trailers. On 21 March 2017 Handcock directed an inexperienced employee to drive a tractor back to the main shed for processing. It was towing two trailers full of freshly cut hop vines on an unsealed section the road.
Two employees were riding on the first trailer, holding onto the back of the tractor and standing on the drawbar. A third employee was riding on the second trailer. Approaching the entrance to the main shed is a steep hill. As the tractor travelled down the hill it picked up speed and the driver lost control before coming to a stop 20 metres past the entrance. The two employees on the first trailer jumped clear - but no-one saw the third fall. He was found on the road, opposite the entrance, unconscious and with serious head injuries.
The partnership failed to:
- identify the risks of loss of control of the tractor; and of falling off the trailers,
- provide a system of work in which employees were not required to ride on hop trailers,
- provide such information and instruction as was necessary to employees required to drive the tractor, including use of correct gear selection on steep descents
Paramedics and Police attended the scene and the employee was airlifted to the Royal Melbourne Hospital. It was later deemed he had suffered a non-survivable brain injury and on 23 March 2018 his life support was turned off.
Handcock pleaded guilty to a single rolled up charge containing two contraventions under sections 21(1) and 145 of the OHS Act and was convicted and fined $130,000.
2 - Company fined for failure to maintain guarding
Glass Recovery Services Pty Ltd, a waste glass recycling company, has aa number of conveyors on site to extract paper, including a conveyor identified as 'C015' (the conveyor).
On 27 February 2017, a WorkSafe Inspector observed the conveyor with a number of exposed danger points. The Inspector was advised that employees are required to undertake housekeeping tasks in the area, which involves manually shoveling of excess materials that have collected around the conveyor - while it is operating. Due to the location of the danger points, physical access by hand was possible while the conveyor was in operation, creating risks of injuries to employees who may become entangled and drawn in. The Inspector issued an Improvement Notice was later complied with following the installation of guarding. On 21 June 2017, the Inspector re-attended the workplace and noted that the guarding had been removed and the danger areas identified in the improvement notice were exposed.
The employer was fined $23,000 plus costs of $5,335, without conviction.
3 - Company fined after complaint to WorkSafe Advisory
Civicast Pty Ltd manufactures and stores 2m2 precast concrete panels, weighing approximately 2.9 tonnes at a workplace in Altona North. On 17 November 2017, someone lodged a complaint through the WorkSafe advisory service, alleging people were working within the area of free standing concrete panels. That same day, a WorkSafe Inspector attended the workplace and observed:
- 35 concrete panels standing vertically and unsupported.
- A damaged kibble with no evidence of inspection or testing and with lifting chains that had not been tested since 2013.
- Concrete panels that had been manufactured with two lifting lugs instead of four, as required by the manufacturer's specifications.
- Concrete panels being lifted by running a piece of reinforcement bar through the reinforcement loops rather than lifting the concrete panels via the lifting lugs.
- No SWMS for high-risk construction work involving the movement of mobile powered plant in conjunction with the construction of the concrete panels
The company pleaded guilty and was fined $30,000, without conviction, plus costs of $4,115.
To check all of the recent prosecutions, go to the WorkSafe Prosecution Result Summaries and Enforceable Undertakings webpage.