Companies should be aware of the consequences of safety breaches and the importance of implementing adequate safety measures on site to ensure the safety and wellbeing of employees, visitors and the public as well as to avoid costly accidents. An engineering company and it’s director recently learnt this lesson the hard way.
The company, a director and the company’s general manager have been fined a total of $116,000 and ordered to pay WorkCover’s legal costs after an employee was killed on their worksite in Narellan, west of Campbelltown.
The 26 year old worker was a fitter and machinist for Seovic Engineering Pty Ltd, a heavy engineering company specialising in the maintenance and repair of mining equipment.
The accident occurred in September 2009 when the worker was engaging in maintenance work on a shuttle car which was 3 metres wide and 8 metres long while being 1.5metres tall. The shuttle was used for transporting large quantities of mining materials via a conveyor flight chain. The worker was replacing this flight chain when he was hit in the head by one of the metal parts, causing a fatal injury.
The company, Seovic Engineering Pty Ltd was charged with breaching the OH$S Act 2000. Its director and general manager were also charged. The company failed to conduct a risk assessment and identify and control the risks to safety. They also failed to provide the necessary documented procedures in the form of a Safe Work Method Statement for workers to follow. Workers weren’t even trained or instructed on how to perform the high risk work.
WorkCover NSW on its website explained:
• Seovic Engineering Pty Ltd was fined $100,000 and ordered to pay WorkCover’s legal costs
• The Director was fined $8000 and ordered to pay WorkCover’s legal costs
• The General Manager was fined $8000 and ordered to pay WorkCover’s legal costs
WorkCover NSW’s acting General Manager of Work Health and Safety Division Peter Dunphy said the safety of workers must be the highest priority for all employers.
“There was a clear risk to health and safety and in the absence of appropriate procedures in place, the risk was reasonably foreseeable.”
“It is particularly significant that there were simple safety procedures available to lessen the risk of injury or death which, if they had been implemented, would have ensured the worker’s safety.
“Undertaking a risk assessment was a simple step that would have identified the risk and facilitated appropriate control measures for eliminating the risk.
“WorkCover will work with the company to ensure that the same mistakes are not made in the future.”
Safe Work Method Statements (SWMS) are an employer’s way of identifying and controlling health and safety hazards and risks. The preparation of a SWMS is vital before any high risk work can begin.
Employees should ensure that they familiarise themselves with the SWMS relevant for their worksite. The SWMS provides information about the types of high risk construction work being done, the health and safety hazards and risks arising from that work, how the risks will be controlled and how the risk control measures will be put in place.
Employers also need to ensure that work is done according to the procedures set out in the SWMS by properly supervising and training their employees to avoid incidents such as the one mentioned above.