Vic company pledges $170K in enforceable undertaking

Wednesday, 12 June, 2024

Vic company pledges $170K in enforceable undertaking

Steel fabrication company Thornton Engineering Australia Pty Ltd has agreed to spend almost $170,000 on improving health and safety outcomes after a 30-tonne frame fell at its Corio factory. The company entered into an enforceable undertaking while facing charges of allowing an employee to conduct high-risk work without the appropriate licence; failing to provide and maintain safe systems of work; failing to notify WorkSafe Victoria of an incident; and failing to preserve an incident site. WorkSafe may reinstate the charges if the undertaking is contravened or withdrawn.

In August 2022, a worker was directed to operate two overhead gantry cranes, which were not synchronised, to lift and rotate the 30-tonne steel frame 180 degrees to allow fabrication from another angle. As it was being hoisted, the frame overbalanced, causing it to fall and hit a wall of the workplace, damaging the cranes and placing the worker at risk. The worker, who had not performed the task before, did not hold the appropriate rigging licence and the company did not have a documented procedure, drawings or written plans for undertaking the lift.

WorkSafe alleges that it was reasonably practicable for the company to ensure that workers were appropriately licensed for the task; that it had documented plans and procedures in place for undertaking the work; and that it notified WorkSafe following the incident and preserved the scene until inspectors arrived.

The estimated $168,900 undertaking requires the company to host two industry forums for students at the Geelong Tech School to educate the next generation of trade workers; the company must also donate $25,000 to the Geelong Tech School to support specialty programs. As part of the undertaking, the company must also create a comprehensive guidance manual on the development of lifting plans tailored for steel fabrication and upgrade its existing gantry cranes to enable automated synchronisation, with workers to be trained in its use. The company must also invest in a technology upgrade to allow factory floor workers and contractors to access online Safe Work Method Statements (SWMS) and lifting plans.

WorkSafe advises employers to manage the risk of using cranes by selecting the proper crane and lifting equiment; employers should also consider the size and weight of the load that the craine will be carrying. Employers are also urged to ensure that cranes are maintained in accordance with the manufacturer’s specifications and operated within their design parameters.

Employers are also advised to check that crane operators and persons connecting loads have the skills, training and licences to operate safely. Employers must also create safe systems of work and ensure that all workers are properly trained and competent before commencing the task. It is also important to consider environmental factors such as weather, ground-bearing capacity, overhead and underground services such as powerlines and pipes/drains. When conducting construction work, employers are advised to ensure that a Safe Work Method Statement has been created.

WorkSafe Executive Director of Health and Safety Sam Jenkin said the incident could have had a tragic outcome, adding that workers must be properly trained and licensed for the work they are asked to do.

“Employers must have safe systems of work in place, including written plans and procedures for how to do a job safely. It is pleasing to see that this company has since agreed to commit to important safety improvements in its own workplace, as well as supporting students and others in the industry to operate safely,” Jenkin said.

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