Judge condemns company after second worker dies

Friday, 29 August, 2008

A Victorian County Court Judge has told a major subsidiary of a publicly listed company (PaperlinX) he believed it had only a "reasonable chance of rehabilitation", after a series of safety failings led to the death of a worker in 2005.

While sentencing Paper Australia in Melbourne, Judge Tony Howard said the company should be denounced for not paying more attention to safety improvements made after a 2002 fatality, also at its Maryvale Mill in Gippsland.

Instead, the machine which killed Brett Carroll — a 31-year-old husband and father of a six-week-old baby — had a number of safety failings that were not identified in the intervening two years.

Mr Carroll was carrying out maintenance on a paper-making machine at Paper Australia’s Maryvale plant when a five-tonne roller fell and crushed him. He died at the scene.

WorkSafe’s investigation found a range of safety mechanisms had been removed; the original instructions for maintenance were missing, while a set of instructions created after a major refurbishment in1986 had been re-written without reference to the manufacturer’s original instructions.

Describing Brett Carroll as a hard-working, decent Australian who died in a workplace accident that should never have happened, Judge Howard said Paper Australia exhibited a degree of complacency.

Paper Australia, which operates four paper mills around Australia, pleaded guilty to one charge laid under the Occupational Health and Safety Act 1985, which provided for a maximum fine of $255,625.

The Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004, which increased fines to more than $900,000, took effect a short time after Mr Carroll’s death.

The company was convicted and fined $160,000 and given an additional penalty of $70,000, since it had been prosecuted in 2003 over the March 2002 fatality.

WorkSafe’s executive director, John Merritt, said the tragedy was that even after disaster had struck another family, lessons were not learned.

“So many companies go to court saying they’ve learned from their mistakes and how they’ve gone to great lengths to prevent it happening again," he said.

“What this case shows us is that while that offers a level of comfort, it’s not much consolation when those failings strike again."


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