Manufacturing News

Man left paraplegic, another hurt, when demolition job goes wrong

Safety shortcuts which left a man a paraplegic and another in hospital for nearly a month has resulted in two related companies being fined a total of $45,000.

Tuftmaster Carpets and Tuftex (Preston) admitted breaching health and safety laws and that they were working outside their level of expertise when ordering workers to demolish a hopper at their Cope Street, Preston, factory.

No documented work plans, job safety analysis or risk assessments were produced for the demolition of an old wool-blending bin nor was there fall protection for workers doing the job.

“Getting safety issues right — before someone is hurt or killed – is the best solution,” WorkSafe’s Executive Director John Merritt said.

“WorkSafe’s concern is that in tough economic times there is a greater risk of more shortcuts being taken with inadequate preparation or training.

“What this means is that people will be put at greater risk and that when something invariably goes wrong individuals and their families will pay the cost.”

Heidelberg Magistrate Barry Docking was told a service agreement between the companies provided that Tuftex paid staff salaries and other employee expenses, while Tuftmaster maintained equipment.

Part way through the May 2007 demolition work, part of a roof panel the workers were removing gave way. One worker fell 3.8 metres to the concrete floor. Another grabbed hold of something above his head as he fell, and managed to pull himself back onto the roof.

As a result of this incident, the worker that suffered the fall sustained serious injuries, resulting in incomplete paraplegic. The worker who avoided the fall suffered sprains and a sore back and could not work for four weeks.

Tuftmaster engaged suitably qualified persons to complete the demolition work after the incident. Tuftex was convicted and fined $30,000. Tuftmaster was not convicted but was fined $15,000.

Magistrate Docking said the risks of employees falling from the bin were known by the company, and could easily have been overcome by the provision of harnesses or other fall restraints.

The charges: Tuftex (Preston) Pty Ltd – Section 21(1)(2)(a) & (e) of the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004. Convicted and fined $30,000. Prosecution costs of $2,000. Section 21. Duties of employers to employees:

(1) An employer must, so far as is reasonably practicable, provide and maintain for employees of the employer a working environment that is safe and without risks to health.

(2) Without limiting sub-section (1), an employer contravenes that sub-section if the employer fails to do any of the following – provide or maintain plant or systems of work that are, so far as is reasonably practicable, safe and without risks to health; and (e) provide such information, instruction, training or supervision to employees of the employer as is necessary to enable those persons to perform their work in a way that is safe and without risks to health.

Tuftmaster Carpets – Section 26 of the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004. Fined $15,000. Prosecution costs of $2,000. Section 26. Duties of persons who manage or control workplaces:

(1) A person who (whether as an owner or otherwise) has, to any extent, the management or control of a workplace must ensure so far as is reasonably practicable that the workplace and the means of entering and leaving it are safe and without risks to health.

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