Prosecutions

Victorian Prosecutions

Pipemaker convicted, fined $275k after death of worker  
Shepparton company Precast Civil Industries Pty Ltd, trading as MC Pipes, was last week sentenced in the Melbourne County Court after earlier pleading guilty to a single charge of failing to provide or maintain safe systems of work, following the death of a worker in 2018.

The red radial press, a piece of machinery the company used to manufacture concrete pipes, was cleaned daily at the end of production. Unlike their other machinery, the red radial press had no self-cleaning apparatus, and so workers had to hammer hardened concrete residue off the rollers underneath the concrete feed conveyor. 

In September 2018 a 25-year-old worker was undertaking this task when he came into contact with the rollers, was drawn in and crushed by the conveyor.

WorkSafe's investigation found there was no documented procedure for cleaning the conveyor rollers. The company could have implemented a number of reasonably practicable measures to reduce the risks of entanglement, including installing self-cleaning rollers; stopping employees from bypassing existing safety measures that would have turned the machine off; and ensuring the underside of the conveyor belt was reached by alternative means, such as a forklift and cage.

WorkSafe Executive Director of Health and Safety Narelle Beer said it was crucial duty holders ensure safe systems of work are in place. She said, "In this tragic case, there were simple steps the employer could have taken to reduce the health and safety risk to their workers and ultimately prevent a senseless loss of life." 
Read more: WorkSafe media release 

Company convicted, fined $210k after truck crash killed three  
Wodonga based Heavy Mechanics Pty Ltd was sentenced in the Wodonga County Court last week after being found guilty in June 2021 of a single charge of failing to ensure, as far as reasonably practicable, that people other than employees were not exposed to risks to their health and safety - after a 2014 truck crash claimed three lives.

In August 2014, a petrol tanker serviced by the company de-coupled on the Wodonga-Yackandandah Road at Staghorn Flat. The detached trailer crossed the road and struck two cars travelling in the opposite direction, killing all three occupants including a four-year-old child.

WorkSafe found the tow-eye coupling was worn to excess and had failed under load.  At the time of the incident it had been used for more than three years and 350,000 kilometres. Heavy Mechanics had serviced the truck just days before the incident, including testing the tow-eye coupling. However, this did not involve an accurate visual inspection and there was no testing conducted when the truck was detached from the trailer, which limited the ability to inspect the parts involved.

A jury found it was reasonably practicable for the company to have conducted more accurate testing and inspections, which would have revealed the wear and tear to the coupling.

Dr Narelle Beer said the company's failure to do so had led to a tragic loss of life. "This is an absolutely horrific incident that not only claimed three lives but left countless others continuing to deal with grief and trauma," she said. Read more: WorkSafe media release

Editor's note: 
The fines of $275,000 and $210,000 meted out by the Melbourne and Wodonga County Courts following the deaths of four people are totally inadequate. In the first case, a young man was killed in horrific circumstances. In the second case, three people, including a toddler, were killed as they were travelling on a country road. The fines imposed by our courts need to be higher. Further, union members campaigned for and achieved Workplace Manslaughter laws - we want to see them being used.  

Transport company charged for serious safety breaches 
Peter Stoitse Transport Pty Ltd has been charged this week under section 32 of the OHS Act with recklessly engaging in conduct that placed others in danger of serious injury after unsafe work practices caused two serious truck crashes.

WorkSafe alleges the company directed or allowed workers to drive two milk tankers that were involved in separate crashes in February and July 2020 despite being aware the trucks were unsafe.

WorkSafe has also charged the company for breaching section 23 of the OHS Act by exposing people other than employees, namely road users, to health and safety risks when it failed to ensure unsafe milk tankers were not driven on public roads.

The company is facing a further three charges under section 21(2)(a) of the OHS Act for failing to provide or maintain safe plant; and failing to provide or maintain safe systems of work to ensure vehicles were free of mechanical defects and driver fatigue was managed.

The matter is listed for a filing hearing at the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court today, 16 February 2022.

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

Comcare: Transport company fined $300k for safety breach 
National transport and logistics company K. & S. Freighters Pty. Ltd. was last week convicted and fined $300,000 for breaching federal work health and safety laws in an incident that caused severe injuries to a worker. The company is a self-insured licensee in the Comcare scheme and is regulated under the Commonwealth Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (WHS Act).

Following a Comcare investigation, the company pleaded guilty to breaching s19 of the WHS Act by failing to provide a safe system of work. The charge is a Category 2 offence under the Act, with a maximum penalty of $1.5 million. The matter was prosecuted by the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions.

The incident occurred on 25 November 2018 at a freight depot in Adelaide’s northern suburbs. After delivering a load of steel coil, workers were manually raising the heavy interlocked gates on a truck trailer when the gates fell on a K. & S. worker, causing severe leg fractures.

In sentencing in the District Court of South Australia, Judge Ian Press said there were considerable and foreseeable risks to the drivers and workers in failing to ensure the use of exclusion zones and mechanical lifting of the gates. Judge Press also took into account the impact on the victim.

Comcare’s General Manager of Regulatory Operations Justin Napier said the risks involved in the case were obvious and potentially fatal. Source: Comcare media release 

NSW: company and director convicted and fined after amputation 
A NSW PCBU and its director, who relied on his managers to implement safety measures, have been convicted and fined for WHS contraventions, after a new, unsupervised employee lost three fingers on a machine.

NSW District Court Judge Wendy Strathdee said there was "little, if any, meaningful training or supervision" of the worker to prevent the obvious risk of him using his hands to clear blockages in the unguarded vegetable cutting machine.

In the early of hours of Christmas Day in 2018, the 21-year-old worker was on his first shift at All Seasons (Aust) Gourmet Produce NSW Pty Ltd's Marrickville premises when his right hand was pulled into the machine's conveyors and forced onto the rotating blades. He suffered severe injuries resulting in three fingers being amputated at the first knuckle.

All Seasons was charged with and pleaded guilty to breaching sections 19(1) and 32 of the State WHS Act, in exposing the worker to the risk of injury from clearing the operating machine's chute.

The PCBU's sole director, Skevos Kakias, pleaded guilty to breaching section 27(1) of the Act in failing, as a company officer, to exercise due diligence to ensure All Seasons complied with its health and safety duties.

On the night of the incident, the worker's supervisor was unaware that the worker started employment, and did not realise he needed to supervise him for the entire night shift as well as doing his own work.

The Judge found the information and training, the work process and the machine guarding were all inadequate. She noted that blockages were not only foreseeable but "happened regularly".

Kakias allowed the machine to be operated without adequate guarding, and "did not provide All Seasons with processes to enable it to assess the risks associated with operating the machine to develop the necessary safe work procedures", she said.

Judge Strathdee found appropriate fines for All Seasons and Kakias were $150,000 and $50,000 respectively, before reducing the amounts by 25 per cent to $112,500 and $37,500 for their guilty pleas, and ordering them to pay costs. Source: OHS Alert

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