Don't rely solely on manufacturers' safety information

Wednesday, 08 March, 2006

Plant and equipment suppliers must independently verify that the products they supply comply with safety standards, as a recent NSW prosecution illustrates.

WorkCover NSW prosecuted Sherrin Hire Pty Ltd under s11 of the OHS Act 2000, alleging it had supplied an elevated work platform (EWP) that was unsafe.

In November 2002, employees of Integral Energy Pty Limited used the EWP to work on the upgrade of overhead powerlines located among trees. While one of the workers was in the bucket of the machine and the boom was being extended, it became unstable and tipped.

The bucket (with the worker in it) fell across a dirt track and the worker suffered a deep cut to his arm, bruising and was treated for neck strain and eventually returned to normal duties three weeks later.

WorkCover investigations found the machine became unstable at an angle of 4° - not 5° as Sherrin had informed Integral on the basis of the manufacturer's instructions.

In the NSW IRC in Court Session, Sherrin pleaded guilty to the charge but claimed there were significant mitigating factors.

Justice Schmidt fined the company $48,750 out of a maximum $550,000.

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