Prosecutions

Company fined $300,000 for gas bottle explosion

A Bayswater maintenance firm was this week convicted and fined $300,000 after a worker was permanently disabled in a gas bottle explosion in December, 2017. The injured worker now requires a wheelchair and has memory loss as a result of multiple traumatic, physical and mental injuries.

New Sector Engineering Pty Ltd pleaded guilty in the Melbourne County Court to failing to provide a work environment that was safe and without risks to health, and failing to ensure persons other than employees were not exposed to risks to their health and safety.

The court heard a New Sector Engineering ute caught on fire when gas bottles containing acetylene and oxygen, which were being transported from a supplier, exploded in the vehicle’s fully enclosed toolbox. The  two gas bottles were unsecured and on their side as the ute’s enclosed canopy was too low to allow the worker to place them in an upright position. This allowed acetylene vapour and air to mix and explode.

A witness to the incident on the Mountain Highway at Bayswater said the fire damaged overhead powerlines and nearby cars, while other gas bottles in the ute also ignited. About 12 people attended the scene and attempted to put the fire out and rescue the driver from the vehicle.

WorkSafe Executive Director of Healthy and Safety Julie Nielsen said procedures for handling highly flammable chemicals like acetylene gas could not be left to chance. "A worker will be dealing with horrific physical and mental injuries from this incident for the rest of their lives," Ms Nielsen said. "This incident should serve as a reminder to all employers, contractors and tradies that they need to ensure dangerous goods are handled with care."
Read more, including advice to employers: WorkSafe media release

Sole trader fined $15k after employee falls 3.2m

Kevin Evans, a sole trader who does roofing works in construction projects, was engaged by CSR Building Limited to install roof tiles and battens for a single storey residential dwelling in Mount Duneed.

On 8 May 2018, one of his employees who was installing roof battens fell about 3.2 metres onto the concrete slab below. Though the Safe Work Method Statement ('SWMS') that had been prepared for the roofing work stipulated the use of the 'progressive batten technique' to control the risk of a fall from height, this was not being used at the time.

Evans failed to undertake the work in accordance with the prepared high risk construction work SWMS (as required by regulation 327). It was reasonably practicable for Evans to reduce or eliminate the risk by ensuring that work was carried out in accordance with the SWMS specific to the work.

He pleaded guilty to one charge and was without conviction, fined $15,000 (plust the VWA's costs of $5,751.59).

To find our more details, and to keep up to date with new prosecutions, check WorkSafe Prosecution Result Summaries and Enforceable Undertakings webpage.

NSW: Officer fined over worker death

A NSW company officer who did little to ensure workers could recognise and control risks has been convicted and fined heavily over the crush death of a worker at a client site. Richard Wayne Simmons was fined $90,000, from a maximum available penalty of $300,000, for breaching his duties as an individual PCBU or officer under the WHS Act.

Simmons and his wife’s partnership, RW&LM Simmons, operated four coal haulage trucks at Bloomfield Collieries Pty Ltd's open cut coal mine at Rix's Creek.

In December 2016, one of his truck drivers, Stephen Norman, told him that a Bloomfield worker said they were no longer permitted to use the mine's wash bay to clean the inside of trucks because coal was getting into the sump. Simmons told his workers that to remove the coal build-up in trailers, one worker had to climb inside to dig it out while two co-workers held the propped-up 322kg tailgate.

On the day of the incident, Norman was trying to wedge a handmade tool between the rear of a trailer and its tailgate. One of the workers holding up the tailgate released it without warning and the second worker, struggling under its weight, let it go too. It swung closed and struck Norman's head with 1.24 tonnes of force. He sustained serious injuries and died in hospital two days later.

In lieu of prosecution Bloomfield entered a $507,705 enforceable undertaking with the NSW Resources Regulator. If the truck had been in the mine's wash bay, there would have been little risk of the incident occurring, but there was no evidence Bloomfield had directed the partnership not to use the wash bay. However, there were failings in how Bloomfield implemented, supervised and enforced its safety management system (SMS) for contractors.

"The partnership took minimal, if any steps, to provide for the health and safety of its workers at the mine," NSW District Court Judge Andrew Scotting found. "Most of the training they were given was delivered by Bloomfield." The partnership's workers weren't properly trained to recognise health and safety risks for themselves or how to control those risks, so they weren't able to respond safely when there was a change in the method for cleaning the trucks.

Simmons should have communicated with Bloomfield to check if the partnership was in fact prohibited from using the wash bay, and directed workers not to clean the trailers until this was clarified.

"If the partnership was prohibited from using the wash bay, [Simmons] should have conducted a risk assessment of alternate methods for cleaning the trailers, developed a safe work procedure for doing so and provided adequate supervision of the workers," said Judge Scotting, finding an appropriate fine was $120,000, before reducing it by 25 per cent for his guilty plea. Source: OHSAlert

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