Charges laid in milk processing death

WorkSafe Victoria has charged a Cobram engineering company, a Bendigo crane hire company and a New Zealand engineer following the death of a worker at a decommissioned cheese factory in Leitchville, near Echuca in December 2017. A 59-year-old man was killed and another man seriously injured when a condenser that had been craned into a shipping container fell and crushed them on 6 December 2017.

A-1 Engineering has been charged with six offences under sections 21(1) and 21(2)(a) and two offences under 21(1) and 21(2)(e) of the OHS Act for failing to provide a safe working environment. WorkSafe alleges the company failed to: ensure employees did not work under suspended loads; provide a system that eliminated risks while loading heavy equipment into an enclosed shipping container; take measures to ensure heavy equipment would not fall; and ensure that loads were lifted in a controlled manner. It is also alleged the company also failed to: ensure employees were appropriately qualified and experienced; provide  the necessary information, instruction, training and supervision; and undertake a risk assessment.

Big Hill Cranes has been charged with four offences under section 23(1) for failing to ensure their work did not expose people other than their workers to risks to their health or safety. It is alleged the company failed to: ensure crane loads were not suspended over people; eliminate the risk of heavy equipment falling while being moved inside the shipping container; ensure that loads were lifted in a controlled manner; and undertake a risk assessment.

The engineer, who was absent on the day of the incident, has been charged with four offences under sections 144(1) for failing to take reasonable care as the manager or controller of the workplace - and that the engineer failed to: provide a safe workplace and a safe system of work for moving heavy machinery; ensure people were qualified for the work; ensure there was a supervisor on site in his absence; undertake a risk assessment of the work required

The matter is listed for a filing hearing in the Melbourne Magistrates Court on 18 December 2019. Read more: WorkSafe media release

Steel fabrication company convicted, fined $400,000 after fatality

SJ & TA Structural Pty Ltd, a company involved in steel fabrication, was last week convicted and fined $400,000 in the Victorian County Court, after pleading guilty to breaching s21 of the OHS Act in failing to provide a safe system of work or safe working environment in an incident which culminated in a fatality.

In August 2016, three SJ&TA workers were using a Franna crane to move 10-metre-long steel staircase frames, weighing up to 3.6 tonnes each, from a painting shed to a yard at the employer's site in Wodonga. They stacked the frames three-high, with one worker operating the crane and the others connecting and disconnecting the lifting chains, as well as placing pads on the steel cleats attached to each frame to separate the cleats from the next frame in the stack.

The County Court heard the workers initially used rubber pads for this task, but were subsequently instructed to use timber scraps instead. After some time, some of the wood broke, causing one stack of frames to collapse against another stack, crushing the worker who was standing between the stacks to disconnect the lifting chains from the third frame on the second stack. He suffered fatal injuries.

The Court found SJ&TA's method for storing the heavy staircase frames created two health and safety risks: that the excessive bearing pressure of the steel cleats on the timber pads would break the pads; or that this pressure would cause the pads and the frames to slide.

Demolition company fined $60,000 after 7 mt fall

Premier De Fit Pty Ltd, a demolition company, was last week fined $60,000 (plus $9,158 in costs), without conviction, after a young workers fell 7.3 metres. The company had pleaded guilty.

In August 2017 Premier De Fit had been engaged by a builder to carry out demolition works at a workplace in Broadmeadows.  On 19 December, Premier De Fit employees  were undertaking demolition works on the third floor.  A 23 year old worker was directed by the foreman to cut a penetration into the concrete floor slab of the third floor, which was to be used to dispose of demolition debris, where it would land on the ground level, and then be removed by an excavator.

He used a demolition saw to cut the hole - no fall protection was installed around the live edges of the penetration, creating a risk of serious injury or death to anyone using or working in the vicinity should they fell through. Later the worker was sweeping around the penetration and talking to a colleague when he stepped back to pick up a shovel. He fell approximately 7.3 metres to the ground below, and suffered two spinal fractures, a medial collateral ligament rupture on his right knee and a tibia fracture on his right side. He was taken by ambulance to Royal Melbourne Hospital and did not return to work for approximately 6 months.

There were four other successful prosecutions since the last journal. To read more on these and to keep up to date with prosecutions, go to the WorkSafe Prosecution Result Summaries and Enforceable Undertakings webpage.

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