Victorian Prosecutions

Employer fined $10,000 after apprentice falls 4.3m

Stephen Reidy, a sole trader operates a business undertaking domestic electrical work and air-conditioning installation.

On 8 June 2018, four employees were installing air-conditioning units at a church hall in Queenscliff which required them to access the roof of the building, a height of approximately 4.3 metres, with merlons that extended a further 900mm above roofline, spaced at 300mm. This created a risk of serious injuries as a result of falling from a height of greater than two metres, which eventuated when an apprentice fell from the church roof onto the concrete ground below. He had used an extension ladder, wedged between two merlons to access the roof. As he attempted to descend, he leaned against a merlon which then collapsed, causing him to fall to the ground. The apprentice suffered injuries including a broken arm and a broken foot.

The location of the merlons precluded the installation of guardrailing and the merlons instead acted as fall protection. It was therefore reasonably practicable for the offender to provide or maintain a safe system of work that required the merlons be inspected to determine their structural stability prior to the commencement of the work.

The Court took into account Reidy's plea of guilty to one charge under sections 21(1) and (2)(a) of the OHS Act, good character and significant contributions to the local community.  He was fined $10,000 (plus costs of $4,217) without conviction.

Two companies fined after employees lose parts of fingers

1 - Manufacturer fined $17,500

Caps and Closures Pty Ltd is a manufacturer of standard and custom designed caps and closures, operating from a factory in Dandenong South.

The workplace has a number of automatic wadding machines, used to insert different sizes of plastic caps in induction sealing wads. These work by feeding caps into the wad press down area, which consists of a central plunger that forces the wadding into the top of the caps.

The plant was fitted with safety doors which were not interlocked; meaning they could be opened allowing employees to gain bodily access to the danger area of the plant while it was online, creating a risk of serious injury by stamping, crushing or cutting. The company had trained its employees in a system of work that required activation of the emergency stop button if for any reason they required access to this area.

On 13 April 2018, an employee accessed the area to remove built up and jammed wadding. At the time the machine appeared to be stationary, so the employee opened the safety doors, forgetting that the machine was online. As she was clearing the wadding, the central plunger regained motion and crushed the tip of her right index finger.

The company pleaded guilty and was without conviction fined $17,500 plus costs of $4,000.

2 - Egg processor fined $15,000

Farm Pride Foods Ltd operates a factory in Keysborough processing egg based products such as hard boiled eggs, fried eggs and egg powder. In the 'Hardboiled Egg Area' of the workplace eggs are boiled, peeled and packaged for distribution to catering clients.

The Multivac R245 ('plant'), one of the machines used in the area, had a primary purpose to mould a tray out of plastic film and seal the trays. The plant used a fixed cutting blade and a moving bottom plate to cut through the plastic between the trays, separating them into rows of trays. It had interlocked guarding, however, bodily access to the danger area of the plant was possible through gaps on either side of the guarding, which allowed access to the cutting blades - posing a risk of employees receiving serious injuries.

On 7 March 2018, the risk eventuated when an employee suffered a serious injury to his hand when he tried to remove a piece of jammed plastic by putting his and through the guard to clear the jam. The bottom plate pressed his finger against the fixed blade under the cross cutter bar and he sustained a partial amputation to the tip of his right middle finger.

Farm Pride Foods pleaded guilty and was without conviction fined $15,000 plus costs of $5467.

Individual charged under s26

Robert Edward Phillips had management and control of a trailer mounted amusement slide, operated under the business name of Totally Fun Amusements.

On 8 January 2016 WorkSafe Inspectors at the Bass Coast Summer Agricultural Show at the Wonthaggi Recreational Reserve observed the slide set up ready for the show the next day. Phillips was not present at the time.

They identified several safety issues including:

  • Loose and inadequate handrails, creating a risk of fall from height;
  • Entrapment hazards at the top, side, and along the slide; and
  • Lack of securing nuts or pins on support pins on the vertical support beam which could result in those fasteners coming free and creating a risk of collapse or structural failure of the slide.

Believing that there was an immediate risk of serious injury or death to patrons using the slide, the Inspector called Phillips and informed him that he was about to issue a Prohibition Notice on the slide.  The notice was issued and given to the Secretary of the Wonthaggi A&P Society - however it was not received by Phillips.

On 24 March 2017 a WorkSafe Inspector identified the slide in use at the St Joseph's Primary School Fete in Boronia. It was established the slide had been used on a further 10 occasions after 8 January 2016. On 10 August 2017 the slide was seized by WorkSafe. An expert report identified that persons using, operating, or in close proximity to the slide, were at risk of serious injury or death in the event that either the welding and/or the corroded floor under the A-frame failed.

The offender pleaded guilty and was without conviction fined of $5,000 plus costs of $4,292. This fine seems totally inadequate given that the slide was used for over a year and a half after it was established it created an 'immediate risk' to the safety and life of workers and patrons.

To keep up to date with prosecutions, go to the WorkSafe Prosecution Result Summaries and Enforceable Undertakings webpage.

UK: BP fined after massive 'extremely flammable' crude release

Energy giant BP has been fined £400,000 (A$735, 067) for criminal safety failings after the release of more than three tonnes of ‘extremely flammable’ and ‘unstablised’ crude oil at the Sullom Voe terminal in Shetland. The company admitted the safety offences at Court. The incident, during maintenance work in 2012, led to the crude oil being released from a pipe into the ground at high pressure. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE), which investigated the incident and prosecuted the company, said the leak “was not noticed for about 30-40 minutes. During this time approximately 3.8 tonnes of extremely flammable, unstablised crude oil spilled on to the ground.” BP Exploration Operating Company Limited pleaded guilty to criminal breaches of the Control of Major Accident Hazards Regulations 1999 and the Health and Safety at Work Act etc 1974. HSE principal inspector Greg Haywood, commenting after the case, said: “This incident could so easily have been avoided by simply carrying out correct control measures and safe working practices.” The day before it was sentenced, BP announced it was using ‘Mars technology’ developed by NASA to monitor its offshore North Sea emissions, including those off Shetland.
Read more: HSE news release. BP news release. BBC News Online. The Shetland Times. Source: Risks 915

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