Prosecutions

Victorian Company convicted, fined $360k after worker killed in trench fall

An excavation company has been convicted and fined $360,000 after a worker was killed when he fell into a trench at a Wallan housing development site in August 2018.

Crowley Excavation Pty Ltd was sentenced in the Melbourne County Court last week after pleading guilty to a charge of failing to provide a safe workplace.

The company had been installing sewers at the site, which involved digging a deep trench. The worker was required to improvise and lean over the unprotected edge of the trench to hook and unhook lifting chains to a trench shield. On the day of the incident the worker suffered fatal injuries after falling six metres into the trench while moving a trench shield.

A WorkSafe investigation found the company could have taken reasonably practicable steps to reduce the risk of a fall, such as:

  • Using a walkway and ladder to approach the trench shield.
  • Removing the need to attach and re-attach chains by using longer chains or separate chains for each shield.
  • Using visual safety reminders near the edge of the trench.

Victorian County Court Judge Damian Murphy said were it not for Crowley Excavation Pty Ltd's early guilty plea, he would have imposed a fine of $600,000. He noted that Crowley was on notice of the risk from being convicted of a breach in 2012, and should have been aware of the need to provide a safe walkway or use equipment that eliminated the need for personnel to go near the trench.

WorkSafe Executive Director of Health and Safety Andrew Keen said, "This death is a tragedy that should have been avoided and a heartbreaking reminder of the consequences of not prioritising safety. The risks of falling from a height while working around trenches, and the controls that duty holders can put in place to reduce these risks, are well-known in the industry." 
Source: WorkSafe media release; OHSAlert

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

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