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ACT: Crane driver gets suspended prison term for 2016 workplace death

On Monday this week the ACT Supreme Court sentenced a worker to 12 months' jail for reckless conduct that killed a co-worker, in a judgment which revealed multiple safety failures resulting from inadequate training, time pressures and cost-saving measures. 

Seven people and two companies (RAR Cranes Pty Ltd, and Multiplex) were charged by WorkSafe ACT in April 2018 with multiple offences following the investigation conducted over the death of a worker that occurred while mobile crane at the site was moving a large generator.

The  RAR Cranes driver pleaded guilty to a breach of the Act, and the Court found that although the fact he permitted others to pressure him into performing an unsafe crane lift increased the seriousness of his offence, it wholly suspended his sentence upon him entering a good behaviour order.  While the driver had decided not to undertake a risk assessment for the lift due to failing light, and made other errors, there were a number of mitigating factors. These included that the primary responsibility for risk assessment and worker safety lay with Multiplex as the construction site's principal contractor, occupier and controller, and with RAR as the worker's employer. 

The driver had not been trained by RAR on how to correctly operate the crane in superlift mode, and had not been informed that one of his RAR colleagues felt the pick and carry crane shouldn't be used for lifting the generator. He also reasonably believed his casual employment would be threatened if he refused to carry out the lift; at another site, he had refused to undertake a crane task as a rigger because of safety concerns, which led to an RAR client engaging another company to carry out the lift. 

ACT Work Safety Commissioner, Greg Jones said the outcome of this case is a strong reminder that workplace safety should be given a high priority. “Every supervisor, manager and director on any worksite must continually review and mitigate workplace risks. They also need to ensure their workers understand and follow all safety systems and procedures so they can do their job safely. The consequences and penalties for failing to meet safety obligations and responsibilities are far too high to be complacent.” 
Sources: OHSAlert; Safety Culture. 

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