Massive fines issued for companies and directors over worker deaths and injuries

Two WA companies and associated directors have been fined thousands of dollars over the death of a worker and serious injury to another, providing an unfortunate but timely reminder of the need for effective safety systems that are compliant with new legislation.

A Welshpool engineering company and its director have been fined a total of $460,000 (and ordered to pay $5000 in costs) over the death of a worker who was crushed by a piece of pipe that fell off a semi-trailer that was being unloaded.

They pleaded guilty to failing to provide and maintain a safe work environment and, by that failure, causing the death of a person who was not an employee.

WorkSafe Commissioner, Darren Kavanagh, said the case was a tragic example of failure by multiple duty holders to provide a safe working environment for the truck driver.

“The company had not formalised and implemented safe work procedures for this work, and the director, who was in control of the workplace at the time, also did not implement safe work procedures despite being responsible for the worker’s safety,” Mr Kavanagh said.

“WorkSafe’s investigation into the incident was told that the company and the director were aware of the hazards of loading and unloading pipes from a truck as another company had previously refused to load the truck with pipes because it did not have adequate physical barriers.

The managing director of a Bayswater recycling company has been fined $70,000 over another incident in which a labour-hire worker’s arm was amputated at the shoulder.

The man pleaded guilty to failing as a director to provide and maintain a safe work environment and, by that failure, causing serious harm to a labour-hire worker, whose arm was amputated at the shoulder when it was caught in the crush point between a conveyor belt and a roller at the automated recycling plant.

The worker had been tasked as a “picker”, which is a worker whose job it is to manually remove unsuitable items from conveyor belts and to clear blockages or jams in various machines.

A blockage had been cleared and the belts had been restarted when the worker reached in to remove a rock that was dragged into the crush point.

There was no guarding around the crush points of the belt, and there was no lockout/ tag out procedure followed to isolate the moving parts of the plant when removing blockages.

The managing director had an office at the workplace, and was usually there five days a week. He had the requisite level of control to implement changes at the workplace.

WorkSafe Commissioner Darren Kavanagh said the company had a questionable safety history, and the court had found that the injury to the worker occurred due to neglect.

The court found it was practicable for the company to have implemented and enforced a system that combined an interlocking system that restricted access to the belt and a monitoring system to detect blockages of the belt.

It was also found that workers at the company had not been provided with sufficient information on hazards, formal instruction and training or direct supervision by the supervisor or manager.