A record fine of $450,000 has been handed down to an South Australian business that had no knowledge of an unsafe work practice that resulted in the death of a worker, but none-the-less had control of the workplace and a responsibility to ensure safe work.

A worker was crushed to death when he reached into a piece of plant to clear a blockage.  The plant had been modified to allow for it to be paused to allow access, without it being isolated.  The worker was advised to tell the plant operator to close off the pneumatic  slide gate airline so that materials would not continue to flow into the bin he was then to crawl into and clear the blockage.

The airline shut off did not work to stop the flow of material and the worker was crushed to death.

The workers direct employer was fined $300,000 in relation to the death, and the site controlling company that allowed the modifications to the plant were fined $450,000 and the site owner has now also been fined $450,000, reduced from $650,000 with the guilty plea, all for the same incident.

In pleading guilty the owner accepted that it “unreservedly acknowledged that closing off the air to prevent the operation of the slide gate was assumed to be effective rather than tested to be so” as noted by the Judge who further added “the safety system in relation to the slide gate was inadequate in that it relied upon human action when the risk called for an engineering control”.

Learnings for all businesses

“Safety is everyone’s responsibility and when there are failures everyone will be held responsible” explains ACAPMAs Elisha Radwanowski.

“The message in this case is very clear, it is not enough just to conduct a hazard assessment and risk mitigation based on ‘normal’ use of plant and equipment, the business must consider the ‘actual’ likely use situations.  It was predictable that people would be needed to clear out the bins from time to time and an automatic isolation protocol should have been in place to address this likely situation” concludes Elisha.

Here to Help

Safety Highlights are things to consider, implement and watch out for in your business.  They are provided as general information for you to consider and do not constitute advice.  You should seek further advice on your situation by contacting your legal advisor.  ACAPMA members can access resources and receive advice, guidance and support from the ACAPMA employment professionals via employment@acapma.com.au  , it is free for members.  ACAPMA Membership delivers this and more benefits, see; https://acapma.com.au/membership/   for more information.

Elisha Radwanowski BCom(HRM&IR)