The defendant company, WDS Limited (in liquidation) held duties under s. 19(1) of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011, being an employer.
An energy company subcontracted WDS Limited to perform gas pipeline works, including a network of poly pipes. A worker, aged 29, was employed by WDS Limited as a poly-welder. On 15 September 2014 he was one of two WDS Limited workers at a mining camp. They were welding 630mm diameter poly-pipe sections using plant known as a McElroy TracStar 630 poly-welder which was owned by the defendant.
While the workers were waiting for a pipe weld to cool they commenced preparations to lift the pipe from the poly-welder machine. This involved positioning slings attached to an excavator onto the pipe.
One worker entered the excavator and waited for the other to sling the pipe.
During the slinging process, a lever was activated causing the left side support roller on the poly-welder machine to rise and trap the worker's head between it and the frame of the poly-welder machine.
He sustained fatal crush injuries.
It appeared the deceased reached through the poly-welder machine in an attempt to retrieve the sling and inadvertently activated a lever causing the pipe support roller to rise and trap his head.
Magistrate Peter Hasted found the defendant company guilty of an offence under s. 32 of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 and fined it $160,000. He ordered professional and court costs totaling $1,500. A conviction was recorded, due to the circumstances giving rise to the offence.
In reaching a decision, the magistrate took account of the fact that poly-welding machine had a number of entrapment hazards which could lead to a severe crush injury, and in this instance a man was killed. Although WDS Limited was given credit for producing various Safe Work Method Statements, it fell short when addressing this particular task which required slings to be placed within the body of the machine. In the more ordinary course of work, slings would be placed external to the moving parts of the machine. In the former instance, workers would place their arms, and in this case their upper torso and head in proximity to powerful moving hydraulic parts which could lead to crush injuries. The court accepted a submission that the defendant had placed too great a reliance on on-site staff experience in the development of work procedures which deserved to be addressed with greater clarity and precision. The magistrate saw the issue as one of clear risk giving rise to very serious injury or death and noted that after the incident, guarding was placed around the levers and a specific Safe Work Method Statement was produced.
Considerations for prevention
(commentary under this heading is not part of the court's decision)
- Safety in the construction industry
- Managing risks of plant in the workplace code of practice 2021 (PDF, 1.57 MB)
- Work Health and Safety Act 2011
- How to manage work health and safety risks code of practice 2021 (PDF, 0.65 MB)
- Injury prevention and management program (IPAM)
- Managing risk
- Date of offence:
- Roma Magistrates Court
- Peter Hasted
- s. 32 of the duty under s. 19(2) Work Health and Safety Act 2011
- Decision date:
- $160 000
- Maximum Penalty:
- Conviction recorded:
- CIS event number: