Freak accident leads to serious injuries and $30K fine

Tuesday, 15 September, 2020

Freak accident leads to serious injuries and $30K fine

Hewitt Cattle Australia, the owner of Ambalindum Station in Central Australia, has pleaded guilty and been fined $30,000 over a 2018 incident in which two workers were seriously injured after a man cage they were in detached and fell from a telehandler as they were being lifted. Hewitt Cattle allegedly did not ensure the health and safety of workers it had engaged; the company’s work health and safety handbook for contractors outlined specific requirements before the workers could use plant and equipment, as well as specific requirements before high-risk work such as working from heights could begin at the worksite. However, none of these requirements were met.

Hewitt Cattle conceded that the company should have verified the workers had the appropriate competencies and training to use the telehandler. The company also failed to perform a risk assessment as specified in its work health and safety handbook for work classified as Restricted High Risk Job Task. The Northern Territory’s Work Health and Safety Regulator, Bill Esteves, said administrative controls such as documented procedure are necessary but not enough, stating that plant should never be operated without a risk assessment to determine whether further controls are necessary to eliminate hazards.

Administrative controls are not effective at minimising risk because they do not control the hazard at the source, and they rely on procedural compliance and supervision to be effective. Esteves noted that providing an operational procedure manual is only part of the duty; duty holders must also ensure workers are trained and competent in the safe use of plant.

“The Northern Territory’s ‘How to manage work health and safety risks’ code of practice details a hierarchy of control measures that businesses and workers should use when managing the health and safety risks at their workplace,” said Esteves.

If a hazard cannot be eliminated, many of its associated risks should be minimised through a number of control measures that provide the highest possible level of protection, especially if the risk has the potential to cause serious injury or death. Hewitt Cattle is also required to pay a victims levy of $1000.

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