A subcontractor working on the Toowoomba Second Range Crossing was fined $50,000 this week over a work safety incident in which a mobile concrete pump with a 60m boom became unstable and tipped, putting workers at risk.
The company pleaded guilty in the Toowoomba Magistrates Court to breaching the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (sections 32 and 19(1)) over the 15 August 2017 incident.
The defendant company was a subcontractor at the Toowoomba Second Range Crossing site, having entered into an agreement with Nexus Delivery to supply a 60m mobile truck mounted concrete pump and workers to operate it. The defendant provided a Job Safety and Environmental Analysis / Work Method Statement, which identified the hazards and risks, with specifications for Nexus Delivery to ensure level firm ground for the set-up area.
The court heard the SWMS required the defendant to risk assess each set up and complete a number of checklists, which was not done.
The pump was required for a pour on 15 August 2017 at a site on the project for which another contractor had initially been engaged. Nexus directed the pump supervisor for the defendant move the pump to the relevant site, which was prepared for the pour. Other plant and equipment had been removed from the area and an excavator was used to widen the access. The defendant’s pump supervisor did not advise any managers from the company that the pump was being relocated.
Three employees of the defendant company were involved in the movement and set up of the pump, with the outrigger legs being extended with plastic padding under the “feet” and timber dunnage under each outrigger foot and plastic pad. The operator manual noted the truck axle should not be off the ground - it was in this case.
When employees unfolded the boom, the unit became unstable and the front outrigger legs slipped off the timber dunnage, resulting in them digging into the ground. The pump was raised off the ground and the boom fell in a slow, but uncontrolled manner, onto a concrete outlet structure.
Magistrate Howard Osborne noted the relevant risks had been identified and steps taken to eliminate them, and had the SWMS been followed, the incident would not have occurred.
His Honour accepted the risk of injury or death was low, given the slow speed of the fall and workers in the vicinity had been instructed to stay out of the boom area. He also accepted this was not a case of reckless indifference and the company had engaged in honest and diligent efforts to attempt to ensure its employees adhered to safe work practices.
In determining the $50,000 fine and almost in $1,600 costs, Magistrate Osborne took into account the defendant’s timely plea, lack of previous convictions, and immediate steps to remedy systems they already had in place (including re-training staff and further refining the SWMS within days of the incident). No conviction was recorded.
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