Prosecutions

Victoria: Charges laid over tank container fire

WorkSafe has charged an industrial equipment supplier following a serious workplace incident at Derrimut. Fuelcraft Pty Ltd has been charged with four alleged breaches of section 21(1) of the Occupational Health and Safety Act; three under section 21(2)(a) for failing to maintain safe systems of work; and one of failing to provide information, instruction and training under section (21)(2)(e). It is further alleged the failure to notify WorkSafe immediately after becoming aware of the incident was a breach of section 38(1) of the Act. 

The charges relate to a May 2019 incident in which two workers using an oxy torch inside an ISO tank container were forced to evacuate when diesel residue ignited causing a fire. The matter was listed for a filing hearing at the Melbourne Magistrates' Court on 5 March. Source: WorkSafe media release

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

SA: PCBU fined $254K after worker's legs amputated

After a worker's legs were amputated by an 'unfit-for-purpose' machine, the employer, hay processor Gilmac Pty Ltd pleaded guilty to safety breaches, but argued that individual deterrence need not feature prominently in its sentence, because it was "contrite" and spent a significant amount of money improving safety after the incident.

With great clarity however, South Australian Employment Tribunal Deputy President Magistrate Stuart Cole convicted and fined the PCBU $245,000, saying there was "little mitigation in a defendant spending money getting its safety processes up to scratch, when they should have been up to scratch in the first place".

The incident occurred in December 2017: the worker was standing on a hay press machine's mezzanine platform trying to move a metal bale for cleaning residue into position when the bale got stuck in the pipe area. He then attempted to dislodge the bale from outside the platform's guardrail and fell onto the weigh table below. This activated the press's cutting blade, which amputated both of his legs below the knees. Had two co-workers not applied a tourniquet prior to the ambulance arriving, the then 35-year-old worker would have bled to death. 

The court heard Gilmac failed to perform a risk assessment after designing the hay press and putting it into operation in 2016, and the plant did not have any engineering controls like guarding or sensors that isolated it if workers came too close to the press or moved into unguarded areas. Although Gilmac's procedures required the press to be isolated "before performing any task on the pressing unit", they did not address how the metal bale should be introduced or stored between uses. At the time of the incident, the worker did not isolate the hay press because he was only moving the metal bale into position.

"In short, the hay press was not fit for purpose," Deputy President Magistrate Cole said. In reducing the appropriate fine of $350,000 by 30 per cent for the early guilty plea, the magistrate said, "It is one thing to respond to an event with improved safety measures; it is another and better thing to proactively avoid injuries in the first place." Read more: Campbell v Gilmac Pty Ltd [2021] SAET 47 (5 March 2021)Source: OHS Alert

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