Large penalties over SA travelator fatality

Monday, 01 December, 2008

Two companies were fined a total of nearly $180,000 by an industrial magistrate over the death of a worker in an incident involving a moving walkway or ‘travelator’ in South Australia.

On 14 December 2005, a carpenter was fatally injured when caught within a travelator which had been activated for testing at a suburban shopping centre. He was not directly working on the device, but was engaged in general construction work around it.

The SafeWork SA investigation revealed he fell into a gap and was exposed to the travelator’s moving parts after pallets were removed.

Cox Constructions pleaded guilty to one count of breaching section 19(1) of the Occupational Health, Safety and Welfare Act 1986 in failing to provide a safe working environment, while SSL Lifts, who failed to show for any of the legal proceedings, was convicted in its absence of two counts of breaching section 22(2) of the Act in failing to ensure that a person other than an employee was safe at a workplace under their control.

Industrial Magistrate Michael Ardlie said that Cox Constructions was not properly supervising the project at the time and should not have allowed its workers into the area when the travelator was being tested. The magistrate also said that SSL Lifts did not erect guarding or signage at the travelator entrances to prohibit entry and should have taken steps to exclude other workers from the site. SSL’s employee could have used a manual control switch to inspect the travelator and deactivate it immediately, but did not.

Cox Constructions was fined $59,500, its penalty discounted by 15% for an early guilty plea and cooperation, while SSL Lifts was fined $120,000. Compensation of $20,000 was also awarded to the deceased’s immediate family.

“This is a shocking and tragic example of the consequences of poor safety planning and poor communication,” says SafeWork SA executive director Michele Patterson. “It was easily avoidable and we urge those engaged in multiple activities on any one worksite to factor each other’s activities into their safe work practices to make sure such an incident is never repeated.”

 

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