Construction firm convicted for failing simple safety steps

Wednesday, 05 December, 2007

A County Court judge has convicted a major civil engineering company for the death of a worker, because it failed to take positive steps to ensure their safety at work.

Judge Damian Murphy found Dandenong-based FRH Victoria responsible for the death in July 2003 of 29-year-old Frankston labourer, Grant Cocks, as it failed to provide written or verbal work instructions and job safety assessments (JSAs).

He found Mr Cocks would not have died if the company had followed procedures that were reasonably practicable to implement.

FRH Victoria pleaded guilty to two counts of failing to provide safe systems of work. The plea was entered after the trial had run three days.

The company was convicted on both counts and fined $120,000.

Cocks fell into the sewer under Henry Road, Pakenham, while repairing access steps.

The judge rejected the company’s claim that Mr Cocks was responsible for his own death, saying safety failings had developed over time which led to a reliance on employee discretion in matters relating to safety.

WorkSafe’s executive director, John Merritt, said job safety assessments were a simple and common means of identifying the controls needed to eliminate hazards in the construction industry.

“They can prevent tragedies like this. They can help spare individuals and families pain and suffering. They can spare companies significant commercial consequences,” he said.

“Management processes must also be in place to ensure workers have the skills to complete the job and that there is a required level of supervision to ensure the tasks are completed as documented.”

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