Prosecutions

Victorian Prosecutions
Man loses part of leg: company fined just $25k without conviction
Walkers Earthworks Pty Ltd provides earthmoving services and operates a variety of heavy plant such as  bulldozers and excavators. Employees operate a 'low loader' - a trailer used to transport mobile plant or equipment, which is loaded up a pair of hydraulically powered 'loading ramps' at the rear of the trailer.

On 11 April 2018, a worker transported a bobcat on the trailer and though he was able to complete the delivery, during the job the hydraulic hose for the ramps blew and hydraulic oil spurted out of the hose. The worker took the rig back to the workshop, where replaced the hose himself, and refilled the hydraulic reservoir. Later, while collecting and loading an excavator from another location the ramps fell uncontrolled. He tried to move to the space between the ramps to be safe, but he was struck and his right foot was pinned under the left ramp.

The worker was airlifted to the Royal Melbourne Hospital. He had suffered a number of injuries including four broken ribs, a collapsed lung and a severe crush injury to his lower right leg which required a subsequent amputation. He spent four weeks in hospital and then was transferred to a rehabilitation service.

Walkers Earthworks pleaded guilty to three charges under s21(2) of the OHS Act, and was fined $25,000 without conviction.

Charges dropped after Mildura Council commits to Enforceable Undertaking  
Mildura Rural City Council ('MRCC') operates 29 sites known as 'stack sites' - including one in Underbool. These are vacant areas of land used to store bulk materials.

On 5 October 2017 40 cubic metres of landscape bark was scheduled for delivery to the Underbool site. MRCC directed the driver to tip the load next to another pile and not in the driveway. The driver arrived and checked for level ground and prepare to tip the load next to the other pile. However, there was a risk of serious injury or death due to electrocution, as a result of operating a truck and trailer in close proximity to overhead high voltage power lines at the Underbool stack site.

The driver got back into the truck, started tipping the load - he then heard a couple of pops, jumped out of the cabin, heard two loud bangs and fell to the ground. The truck had come into close proximity with the high voltage overhead powerlines. The truck was damaged and the driver was treated in hospital for concussion and ringing in his ears before being discharged the next day uninjured.

Charges of breaching s23(1) and s26(1) of the OHS Act were dropped and the MRCC entered into an Enforceable Undertaking which includes the following: 

  • a commitment to, over the next 12 months, permanently close and relocate the four 'stack sites'  which have overhead powerllines;
  • within 2 months, to submit to the VWA an action plan as to the operational timeline of the closures; and report to the VWA quarterly on progress.;
  • to run two Mental First Aid Training Courses;
  • to increase community awareness of the dangers of working under overhead powerlines by running 3 public seminars; and
  • to sponsor a 12 month traineeship.
The MRCC has calculated that the undertakings will cost approximately $200,000.

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Construction company convicted, fined $40k after worker injured
Mav Group Pty Ltd, specialising in the construction of multi-level apartment buildings, has been convicted and fined $40,000 over an incident in which a worker was struck on the head, shoulder, leg and ankle by a light pole, causing a compound fracture to his right leg requiring surgery to fit plates, six small fractures to his right ankle and a partially severed finger on his right hand.

The incident occurred on 18 April 2017 when, during the construction of a multi-level apartment complex,  three street lights were required to be removed. Each light was seven meters long with in length with three light fittings attached to curved steel brackets. The Site Supervisor and a laborer with a 'dogman' high risk work licence, both employees, were removing the poles using an excavator, supplied and operated by a sub-contractor. No slings were available and so chains were provided by the sub-contractor. The chains were not tagged or rated.

As the third light pole was being lowered it started to slip. The laborer walked underneath to try to check the chains and take control of it to prevent it from breaking. As he moved underneath it fell, causing the injuries.

To check all of the recent prosecutions, go to the WorkSafe Prosecution Result Summaries and Enforceable Undertakings webpage.

NSW: PCBU and worker charged with exclusion zone breaches
Moolarben Coal Operations Pty Ltd and one of its former contract workers could be fined up to $1.5 million and $300,000 respectively, after being charged with exposing six workers to the risk of death or serious injury from mine blasting activities, in breach of s32 ("Failure to comply with health and safety duty–Category 2") of the NSW WHS Act.  The matter was set down for first mention in the District Court on 24 June.

The NSW Resources Regulator alleged that in May 2017, the six workers were standing within the 500-metre personnel exclusion zone prescribed by the Moolarben mine's blasting rules when flyrock from a blast landed near them. Several months after the incident, an investigation found the flyrock unexpectedly ejected from a single shot hole as a result of "under-stemming", forcing some of the workers to dive for cover and damaging a light vehicle. 
Source: OHS Alert

UK: Gas blast leads to A$2.12m fine
Marathon Oil UK LLC (Marathon) has been fined £1,160,000 (A$2.124m) following a Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation into a high-pressure gas release on its Brae Alpha offshore platform on Boxing Day 2015.

Aberdeen Sherriff Court heard that on 26 December 2015, an eight-inch diameter high pressure pipework suffered a catastrophic rupture as a result of 'Corrosion Under Insulation' (CUI), allowing over two tonnes of high-pressure methane gas to be released almost instantaneously. The force of the high pressure blast caused significant and widespread damage within the module. The incident occurred whilst most of the 100 personnel on the platform were gathered in the accommodation block, in readiness for their Boxing Day meal, and away from the source of the blast. Read more: HSE new release

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