Firms could pay over $1 million for worker death

Two Australian engineering firms could face fines of up to $1.1 million after being found guilty of negligence for the death of a worker.

These businesses were deemed responsible for the death of 30-year old worker back in May 2011. The companies are now waiting for sentencing, which will take place last this month. They had denied responsibility for the man’s death and had taken the case to their county court.

New Zealand-born worker fell 40m to his death at a construction site in Melbourne’s Southbank after the mast of a large pile-driving rig he was standing on snapped, and the rig collapsed. A series of investigations by the Victorian WorkCover authority discovered that 10 essential bolts had never been installed on the rig’s most sensitive area, which had contributed to its collapse.

A subcontractor  was engaged for the installation of the rig at the construction site, according to court testimony. The operator had no experience or training in rigging one section of the pile-driver, however, ultimately failing to install six rear bolts and four side bolts. He forgot to install some of them, while believing others were unnecessary.

These bolts were not in the manufacturers’ manual, it was found. The two firms were ultimately found guilty of failing to provide adequate information, instruction, training or supervision, as well as failing to provide safe systems of work.

The charges had initially been brought against the builder, who maintained the site, but were struck out last year.

The case shows the importance of implementing thorough processes on the worksite to ensure the safety of workers, and the financial and human cost of failing to do so. However, it also serves as a useful reminder to provide workers with high-grade equipment, particularly when they work at heights. Whether scaffolding, maintenance work platforms or ladders, workers need a reliable surface to stand on to stay safe at work.