Prosecutions

There has not been an update to WorkSafe Victoria's Prosecution Result Summaries and Enforceable Undertakings webpage since our last edition. However, go to it to check for further prosecutions before next week's SafetyNet. 

QLD: Over-reliance on technical documents before fatality leads to $300k

A PCBU that relied on technical specifications instead of conducting a site-specific risk assessment for storing 17-tonne materials has been fined $300,000 in the Brisbane Magistrates’ Court, after a worker was crushed to death.

Magistrate Judith Daley fined Holcim (Australia) Pty Ltd $300,000 from the maximum available penalty of $1.5 million. This is despite the company pleading guilty and the magistrate noting  the company had two previous safety convictions, including one relating to a fatality, and could have easily identified measures to prevent the fatality. Not only that, but a Workplace Health and Safety Queensland investigation found workers had raised concerns about the stacks twice before the fatality.

Holcim, contracted to manufacture 240 precast concrete piles for a road upgrade project in Townsville, had stored six of the 17-tonne piles in three stacks of two on timber dunnage in a work area. In April 2017, two workers noticed one of the outside stacks was leaning towards the centre stack. To determine why, they used cranes to move the top pile of the outside stack to the top of the centre stack, making this stack three piles high. The centre stack then became unstable and fell on one of the workers, inflicting fatal injuries.

Despite the workers' complaints, Holcim failed to conduct a site-specific risk assessment, instead relying on the technical and storage specifications in the contract of works. The serious risk arose from: the piles being stacked on uneven ground; the use of softwood as dunnage under the stacks; the use of single pieces of dunnage to support multiple stacks; and workers performing tasks between stacks of piles. The magistrate found Holcim relied too heavily on its contractual duties and specification documents, and stressed that the workers' complaints should have triggered a risk assessment. 
Source: OHS Alert

QLD: Company fined $800k over fireball fatality and recklessness

A company that failed to properly train personnel on the use of heat sources around hazardous materials has been convicted and fined $800,000 for reckless conduct, after a worker was killed when he was engulfed by flames.

Oil Tech International Pty Ltd pleaded guilty to breaching the QLD Work Health and Safety Act, and faced a maximum penalty of $3 million. Reckless conduct charges against Oil Tech's director, Michael Joseph Reid, were dropped.

In November 2015, the worker was using a heat gun to repair a pump at Oil Tech's liquid waste treatment facility in Yatala when a tanker load of water and petrol was emptied onto a nearby driveway at the direction of the site manager. The worker's heat gun ignited the petrol vapour, and he was burnt to death.

Following an investigation by Workplace Health and Safety Queensland, Oil Tech and Reid were charged with recklessly failing to prohibit hot work near the unloading task. In March last year they were committed to stand trial in the District Court, with WHSQ accusing them of being "indifferent towards or in disregard of the probable consequences of their conduct" when the worker was killed.

District Court Judge Craig Chowdhury heard the site manager directed the delivery tanker to deposit its contents onto the concrete driveway because all the liquid storage areas were full. He found, however, that the risks posed by this move were obvious and the PCBU could have avoided the fatality by refusing to accept the delivery. Source: OHS Alert

NSW: Restaurant prosecuted for flouting COVID-19 rules

A Korean BBQ restaurant in Strathfield has been fined $5,000 for having an open buffet where diners shared crockery, cutlery and food. When SafeWork NSW inspectors visited Butchers Buffet on 11 September, they observed patrons accessing plates, condiments, serving utensils, bowls and trays of food as well as shared utensils on tables.

There was no safety marshal in place or stated limits on the maximum number of customers allowed on the premises. Chairs and tables were not adequately spaced, and CCTV footage showed patrons were not physically distancing when helping themselves at the buffet.

SafeWork NSW Director Work Health and Safety Metro, Sarina Wise, said these sorts of breaches defy logic. “Self-serve buffets and pandemics simply don’t mix, creating a source of potentially contaminated items,” Ms Wise said. 

Hospitality businesses across the board are being warned against complacency, as inspectors from Liquor & Gaming NSW, SafeWork NSW and NSW Fair Trading this week issued 23 new fines for COVID breaches. 
Read more: SafeWork NSW media release

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