On 28th May 2011, an employee fell approximately 40 meters when the mast of a piling rig collapsed. The builder had engaged the company Frankipile to undertake piling work associated with building foundations at the site. Frankipile in turn engaged Vibro-Pile (an affiliated company) to operate the piling rig. The deceased was employed as a dogman by Frankipile.
A Vibro-Pile employee, who was given the job of preparing the rig for work, was unfamiliar with its controls and had never installed, or had been trained in how to install, the 1.8 metre leader extension that had to be fitted to the mast. Despite reporting his concerns to his supervisor, work on preparing the rig continued. As a result, 10 of the 16 bolts needed to secure the leader extension to the rig were not fitted.
Later that day a Frankipile employee was working at the top of the rig when the mast snapped, causing the employee to fall to the ground, along with a 20-metre section of the mast. The employee subsequently died.
Vibro-Pile was convicted at trial of:
- One count under section 21(2)(a) at the Victorian Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Act for 2004 for failing to provide systems of work that were safe and without risks to health as far as reasonably practicable; and
- One count under section 21 (2)(e) of the OHS Act for failing to provide the information, instruction, training or supervision necessary to enable employees to perform work in a way that was safe and without health risks.
Vibro-Pile was fined $100,000
The lesson for employers is to ensure that only properly trained and qualified workers perform certain activities, particularly if they are high-risk. Employers need to be vigilant to ensure that when workers raise concerns about their level of competency, they are not ignored.
In February 2013, a bottle-shop worker fell through an open trapdoor when working at the Wallacia Hotel in NSW. She suffered multiple injuries, including injuries to her feet, which required surgery. At the time of the incident, the employer had failed to place barriers on warning signs around the trapdoor to prevent people from entering the area while the trapdoor was open.
The employer was fined $150,00 for the safety breach. The risk of injury was obvious and simple measures could have been taken to reduce the risk.
The case demonstrates the importance of having safe systems of work in place, particularly for obvious risks and when workers are regularly exposed to injury.