Prosecutions

Charges laid over fatal wall collapse

WorkSafe Victoria has charged a contractor following the death of a worker at a residential building site in Ballarat in September 2019. The 56-year-old man was crushed when a brick wall collapsed onto him during demolition work at the Mount Pleasant property.

Horsham Back-hoe Hire Pty Ltd has been charged with two alleged breaches of the Occupational Health and Safety Act for failing to provide a safe working environment. WorkSafe has alleged the failure to establish and maintain an exclusion zone around the live demolition areas was a breach of section 21(2)(c) of the OHS Act. The regulator further alleges the company's failure to provide the information, instruction and training necessary to enable its workers to perform their work in a way that was safe and without risks to health was a breach of section 21(2)(e).

The matter is listed for a filing hearing at the Ballarat Magistrates' Court on 19 February.

Ballarat hospital fined after staff assault

After pleading guilty, Ballarat Health Services was last week fined $20,000 without conviction for failing to comply with duties under s21(2)(e): to inform staff about occupational violence and aggression risks in the workplace in 2018. It was also ordered to pay $4256 in costs.

On August 2, 2018, a female nurse at Ballarat Base Hospital was exposed to inappropriate, sexualised behaviour while attending to a patient with an impaired cognitive condition. A WorkSafe inspector later attended the hospital and found that following the incident the health service had failed to update the patient’s Behavioural Observation, which records incidents of physical and verbal aggression, agitation and resisting care. This in turn exposed workers to potential future incidents of inappropriate, sexualised behaviour from the patient.

WorkSafe Executive Director of Health and Safety Julie Nielsen said employers had to ensure their workers were not exposed to inappropriate, sexual behaviour in the workplace. "Having to put up with occupational violence and aggression should never be ‘just another part of the job’," Ms Nielsen said. "Even when someone’s clinical condition means their cognitive functions are affected, employers must take every reasonable step to reduce the risks to their workers." Read more: WorkSafe media release

Tip fined $45k after woman seriously injured in fall

A Gippsland tip operator was last week convicted and fined $45,000 after a woman was seriously injured when she fell 2.5 metres into a skip bin in November, 2018.  Towards Zero Pty Ltd pleaded guilty in the Sale Magistrates’ Court to failing to ensure persons other than employees were not exposed to risks to their health and safety. They also paid $1875 in costs.

Skip bins at the company’s Kilmany Resource Centre were located beneath elevated concrete platforms where users could park their vehicles and drop waste into the bins. A woman unloading material from the back of a ute slipped and fell between two guard rails while climbing down from the vehicle’s tray. She landed on the bottom of a skip bin, fracturing several ribs and injuring her spine.

A WorkSafe investigation found that guard rails had been moved to widen the gap between them at the edge of the platform, leaving enough space for a person to fall through. There was also no instruction directing users how to dispose of waste safely.

WorkSafe's Julie Nielsen said the injured woman was lucky to be alive after falling more than two metres. "Falls from height are one of the biggest causes of injury and death in Victorian workplaces and these risks should always be taken seriously," Ms Nielsen said. "Every employer must consider the dangers of unguarded edges or steep drops and take every reasonable step to reduce risks to the health and safety of workers and the public." Source: WorkSafe media release

Company convicted, fined over lack of roof protection

A roofing truss manufacturer has been convicted and fined $40,000 over a lack of fall protection at a Cranbourne North building site. Melbourne Truss Pty Ltd this week pleaded guilty in the Dandenong Magistrates' Court to breaching s21 of the OHS Act. The company was also ordered to pay $6,683 in costs.

In October 2018 a prime mover fitted with a loading crane delivered wooden roof trusses to the two-storey residential construction site. After the trusses were lifted onto the building, a worker climbed up the frame to the first floor to unhook the crane's chain sling. The worker, who was not wearing a safety harness, then sat on the chains as the crane operator lowered him down and placed him on the tray of the truck.

A nearby resident recorded video footage of the incident and contacted WorkSafe.

An investigation later found there was a risk of serious injury or death due to a fall from over two metres and the company could easily have ensured workers used a portable ladder to access and exit the building's first floor. 

WorkSafe's Julie Nielsen said while thankfully the risk did not eventuate in this instance, the company's offending was still serious. "It's crucial that all workers are appropriately trained, equipped and supervised to do their jobs safely," Ms Nielsen said. "Falls from height are among the biggest killers of Victorian workers and WorkSafe will not hesitate to take action against employers who fail to address well-known safety hazards." Source: WorkSafe media release, which has advice on controlling fall hazards.

To check for more Victorian prosecutions before the next edition, go to WorkSafe Victoria'sProsecution Result Summaries and Enforceable Undertakings webpage. 

QLD: Companies and directors fined $310k for labour-hire breaches

Queensland poultry processor B&E Poultry (Qld) Pty Ltd, and its director Xu Chun Dong, were this week fined $100,000 and $50,000 respectively for breaches of the State Labour Hire Licensing Act 2017 detected by Workplace Health and Safety Queensland and the Labour Hire Licensing Compliance Unit.

In sentencing B&E, Dong and other parties involved in the breaches yesterday, Beenleigh Magistrate Michael O'Driscoll stressed that the overriding purpose of the licensing scheme, which commenced in 2018, was to protect vulnerable labour-hire workers, and the offences were serious. It requires labour-hire providers to obtain a licence after demonstrating strict compliance with WHS and workers' comp laws and other legislation.

A 2019 joint compliance blitz found that three companies without labour-hire licences were unlawfully providing labour-hire workers to B&E's Ormeau factory, and B&E was breaching the Act by entering into arrangements with the unlicensed providers. The offences continued for several weeks after being warned to only use licensed providers.

The Magistrate fined two of the unlicensed providers, GY Services Pty Ltd and MK Sun Pty Ltd, $40,000 each, and fined their respective directors $15,000 each. The third unlicensed provider, Fancey Pty Ltd, was fined $50,000 in November last year, after pleading guilty to breaching the Act.

Magistrate O'Driscoll noted the parties' early guilty pleas, but pointed to the maximum available penalties – $400,000 for corporations and $138,000 for individuals – in finding others needed to be deterred from committing such offences. 
Source: OHSAlert

NT: Townsville Engineering firm charged over worker's death

CASA Engineering has been charged over a worker’s death, after an incident at the site in Enterprise Street, Bohle on 14 December 2018. The case was mentioned briefly in the Townsville Magistrates Court last week.

The worker was unloading steel pipes from a truck, when a pipe fell and crushed him. Nearby workers tried in vain to use a forklift to free him before paramedics arrived; however, he could not be saved. CASA Engineering faces a single charge of failing to comply with a health and safety duty. The charge is a category two offence under the federal Work Health and Safety Act 2011 and carries a maximum penalty of $1.5m.  Source: Townsville Bulletin

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