Prosecutions

Director fined after two workers fall 

Muhammad Bardan was the sole director and secretary of Ridgecon Pty Ltd, a construction company, and was the principal contractor at a construction site located at Camberwell. Ridgecon is currently in liquidation.

On 8 July 2019, two workers of a subcontractor were completing carpentry works for Ridgecon. Bardan directed them to work on the first floor where the balcony had no fall protection. They got to the first floor via an extension ladder in a stair void. As they were taking measurements, a stack of plaster sheets fell towards them and pushed them off the balcony. They both fell from a height of about three metres. One of the workers suffered a twisted spinal cord and was taken to a hospital by ambulance - at the time of the injury there was no prospect of him walking again. The other worker was uninjured.

Ridgecon, as a 'person' with management and control of the workplace, failed to ensure that the workplace was safe and without risks to health when it failed to control the risk associated with fall from height - the contravention was attributable to Bardan, as an officer of Ridgecon, for failing to take reasonable care.

Bardan pleaded guilty to one charge fined $20,000 (plus $5,692 costs), without conviction. Had he not pleaded guilty, her Honour indicated he would have been sentenced to pay a fine of $30,000 with conviction.

Crane operator found guilty of breaching s32 of the Act

Jason Ross Briggs, a licensed crane operator, was charged and found guilty of breaching s32 of the OHS Act - reckless endangerment placing other persons at a workplace at risk of serious injury - after an April 2019 incident in Yarraville.

On the day of the incident, he was installing three prefabricated housing modules by dropping them into position onto the construction site. He completed the lift of the first, smaller module, safely and started the lift of the second, larger one. However, the crane tipped, extensively damaging and destroying both modules. The falling module also hit two residential buildings either side of the construction site. One was so damaged that the occupants were forced to relocate to temporary accommodation.

No-one was injured, despite two riggers nearby who were guiding the module from the ground, and three people present in the severely damaged residential property. 

At the time of the incident, the crane was operating without the required counterweights. Briggs was aware of this, and attempted the lift, despite his employer instructing him that if a lift could not be done safely, then it ought not be attempted.

A plan for the lift had been prepared, with the weight of each module and specifying counterweights of 26.1 tonnes. These were on site, but Briggs told his his colleagues he would not to use them, because if fitted on the crane, they would have hit the fence of one of the neighbouring properties.

Expert evidence confirmed that as a result, the crane operated at an overload rate of 172%, and that it overbalanced due to insufficient counterweights.

The crane's data logger confirmed that in order to do the lift Briggs had entered false information on the crane's safety system, indicating that the counterweights were much higher than they actually were. Furthermore, he had activated a manual override of the safety system which, in the absence of the required counterweights, would have prevented the boom from operating. 

Briggs was convicted and sentenced to serve a 2 years' Community Corrections Order ('CCO'), with all core conditions (including to be of good behaviour and under the supervision of a Community Corrections' Officer throughout the duration of the order). He was also ordered to perform 250 hours on unpaid community work as part of the CCO, and to repay the Authority's costs of $4,466.

This was a rare prosecution of a worker under s32. The court was provided with a number of arguments, including that the offence was serious and had a number of aggravating factors (eg Briggs was an experienced and licensed crane operator, aware of the employer's instructions, and took actions to override safety systems). 

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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