Company fined $175K after worker crushed by concrete panel
A Western Australian building company has been fined $175,000 over a 2017 incident that lead to the death of a contract worker in the south-west town of Yarloop. Grand Designs WA Pty Ltd pleaded guilty to breaching five charges, the most serious of which was failing to provide and maintain a safe workplace and, by that failure, causing the death of the worker. On this charge, the company was fined $150,000.
Other charges against the company include workers not wearing safety helmets, not having an Occupational Health and Safety Management Plan, not having a safe work method statement (SWMS) onsite and workers not holding high-risk work licences. On these charges, the company was fined $25,000. Magistrate Coleman noted that the original fines totalled $230,000 before the amount was discounted due to mitigating circumstances.
In March 2017, the company was building a house at Yarloop from imported precast aerated concrete panels that had arrived in an open-top sea container from which they would be craned into position in a prescribed sequence. While moving the concrete panels, a panel weighing between 750 kg and 1.1 tonnes and containing a glass sliding door and sliding window was removed from the sea container by the crane. It was not the next panel needed in the construction sequence and was stored out of the way by leaning it up against a tow of five tree stumps.
The chains that attached the panel to the crane had been removed but the panel had not been secured to the tree stumps, and it fell on the contract worker who had been guiding it onto the gluts, inflicting fatal injuries.
WorkSafe WA Commissioner Darren Kavanagh said the case was a tragic example of several factors conspiring to result in a terrible outcome. Kavanagh noted that although a SWMS had been compiled, it was not taken to the worksite and it did not include the safety measures associated with working with precast concrete panels and the equipment to be used, making it useless for the job. Kavanagh added that the tilt-up panel that was leaned against the tree stumps should have been safely laid flat, to be retrieved when needed.
“This company neglected its duty of care, not properly identifying and assessing potential hazards or taking steps to reduce or eliminate the risks, culminating in the sad death of a young worker. On this job there was a serious lack of safety systems, highlighted by the lack of helmets being worn on the site that day despite the obvious risks. Finally, workers on the site were performing high-risk rigging and dogging work without holding high-risk work licences, and this was enabled by the company,” said Kavanagh.
Kavanagh described tilt-up panel construction as a particularly hazardous undertaking, stating it should only be performed in accordance with the regulatory requirements and the relevant code of practice.
“This company failed to ensure that basic safety systems were in place and it led to a young man sadly losing his life, so I hope others will learn from this case and ensure workers are protected from any hazards in their workplaces,” said Kavanagh.
A National Code of Practice for Precast, Tilt-up and Concrete Elements in Building Construction is available on the WorkSafe WA website.
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