Formwork company fined $650,000 after worker falls to death

Last week an employer was fined $650,000 after a worker was killed in a 12-metre fall from a platform that was completely unsuitable for purpose, making the fall "almost inevitable". Formwork company Concorp Group Pty Ltd was convicted and fined in the County Court for breaching section 21 of the OHS Act, with regards to a labour-hire worker – a deemed employee under the Act.

In February 2016, the man was inside a riser shaft on the fourth floor of a multi-level apartment construction site drilling holes when the wooden platform he was on tipped under his weight and he fell to his death.

The Court heard the platform was constructed two days before the incident, and it was nailed to the wall and supported by two beams. One of the labourers who built it warned the site foreman tools could fall from it onto workers, and the platform was boarded up. However, workers weren't instructed not to work on the platform and on the day of the incident someone removed the plywood blocking the entrance. 

An engineer engaged by WorkSafe Victoria found the platform was completely unsuitable for purpose and the likelihood of an incident occurring was almost inevitable. The engineer found it would have been reasonably practicable for Concorp to:

  • have used a site engineer to design the work platform;
  • reduce its size to eliminate the cantilever zone; or
  • add an additional support beam and extend the platform to the width of the shaft.

At the time of the trial, Concorp was placed in liquidation and was not present nor represented, and was deemed to have pleaded not guilty, before being found guilty and fined $650,000. It is very possible that the fine will never be paid. (Source: OHS Alert)

Commercial laundry fined $40,000 after worker's arm crushed in machine

Princes Laundry Services, one of Victoria's largest commercial laundry services for the healthcare and hospitality industries, with four of its national worksites in Victoria including one at Park Way, Braeside. 

On 7 February 2018 a flat iron worker and employee was working with her supervisor feeding clothing items onto the conveyer and front feeder area of a flat iron machine. The cord of a hospital gown became entangled in the roller and dragged her into the machine trapping her arm and shoulder between the roller and feeding plate of the iron. A crow bar had to be used to prise open the feeder plate to allow her arm to be released. The worker suffered crush injuries to her right arm and shoulder, third degree burns requiring a skin draft from her thigh and ongoing anxiety.

Previously (in February 2017) at the same workplace, another employee was working on the same machine and was injured in an almost exact incident when a gown string became entangled around the roller. The company at the time took measures to eliminate the risk of crush or entanglement by fitting a guard to the danger areas such as the in running nip points. However some months before the current incident Princes Laundry removed the guard when employees complained that working on the machine caused back pain. It was not replaced with another, improved, or differently engineered guard. Obviously this created a risk of serious injury to anyone using the ironing machine without the guarding.

Princes Laundry Services pleaded guilty and was without conviction sentenced to pay a fine of $40,000 and to pay costs of $3,592.

Enforceable undertaking after worker impaled

Probuild Constructions (Aust) Pty Ltd, head contractor at a commercial building site, has entered a $175,000 safety undertaking after a worker was impaled on an obviously hazardous bar.  WorkSafe withdrew charges againstthe company after accepting an enforceable undertaking from the company, which included developing a subcontractor safety culture program to target unsafe behaviours (!!) throughout the "subcontractor lifecycle", from pre-tender to job completion.

In August 2016, at a shopping centre development where Probuild was head contractor, a subcontractor's employee was installing glass panels on the roof when he lost his footing stepping backwards and fell onto open-ended scaffolding uprights. He was impaled and sustained significant injuries. Probuild was charged with breaching section 23 of the OHS Act, in failing to ensure persons other than employees were not exposed to health and safety risks so far as was reasonably practicable.

WorkSafe found it would have been reasonably practicable for Probuild to raise the height of the uprights above the level workers were working at or fit plastic caps on the ends of the uprights.

According to the Enforceable Undertaking document, Probuild committed $100,000 to developing and delivering the safety culture program for subcontractors - unique to the construction industry and in response to current demands for such resources in the sector.  The program aimed to "target onsite behaviours that directly impacted health and safety and provide tools to empower individuals to challenge unhelpful safety attitudes". Probuild also planned to develop a safety culture website for the construction industry, to help subcontractors build positive organisational safety cultures. The whole undertaking was expected to cost $175,000. 

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

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