Plumbing company fined after trench collapse

All In One Plumbing Pty Ltd operates in the inner south eastern suburbs of Melbourne and specialises in residential and commercial plumbing. In August 2017, the company's employees were installing and connecting pipes inside a trench at workplace located at Keysborough. Two trench shields had been rented so they could safely work inside the trench.

The method used was for an excavator to dig down and then drop one of the trench shields into the trench. then the excavator would dig a second hole and the second trench shield would be placed next to the first. Once the work was completed in that specific area, the excavator would dig the next section and the first shield would leap-frog the second shield and be placed in the trench.

On 1 September 2017, a worker entered the trench in an area outside of the trench shield and used a jackhammer to chip away some concrete: the trench, which was about 2.2 metres deep, collapsed. The man suffered three fractures in his pelvis which required surgery, as well as a soft-tissue injury to his right shoulder. The worker could have been killed as a result of this incident.

All In One Plumbing pleaded guilty and was, without conviction, sentenced to pay an aggregate fine of $32,500 (plus costs of $7,500) for breaching Sections 21(1); 21(2)(a) & 21(2)(e) of the OHS Act.

Bendigo Foundry after worker's hand caught in machine

Keech Foundry Pty. Ltd designs and manufactures steel castings in Bendigo East. Part of the business involved using a "paddle mixer" to mix "magcast" powder with water. 200 kilograms of powder and water would be placed in the paddler mixer and a four bladed auger mixed it together. Once mixed, a hinged steel gate would be opened by hand and the mixture would flow down a guarded chute into a hopper/wheelbarrow to be carted away.

It was not uncommon for blockages to occur in the chute during the task. Workers were trained to close the hinged steel gate and use a metal bar to loosen the mixture, before opening the steel gate again to continue. However the guard was in poor condition. In July 2018, there was a blockage - the worker put his hand in a gap in the guard to loosen the mixture. The auger sheared the tips of two of his fingers. He was taken to hospital and underwent successful reattachment surgery.

WorkSafe inspectors attended shortly after the incident and issued a prohibition notice. Later that day, WorkSafe inspectors re-attended the workplace and observed a new guard had been designed, manufactured and installed on the chute. The prohibition notice was then lifted.

Keech pleaded guilty, had been in business for about 80 years and had had no prior OHS matters heard. But for the plea of guilty, the Court would have imposed a fine of $40,000. Instead, the court imposed a fine of $20,000 plus $3,904 costs.

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

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