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Prosecution Details

Defendant Prindon Holdings Pty Ltd
Trading Name Tyco Motion & Control
Section 19(1) and 19(7)
Offence Date Wednesday, 30 April 2003
Description of Breach(es)

Being an employer, failed to provide and maintain, so far as was practicable, a working environment in which its employees were not exposed to hazards and by that failure caused serious harm to an employee; contrary to sections 19(1) and 19(7) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act 1984.

Background Details

The defendant carried on a hydraulic business that operates from a number of premises including one at Welshpool.

On 30 April 2003 the Works Manager at the defendant's business premises in Welspool instructed an 18 year old apprentice, and a trades assistant who had been employed for two months prior to that date, to transport a steel spreader beam weighing approximately 450 kg to an area of concrete and to cut up the spreader beam using an oxygen/acetylene manifold set so that the smaller pieces could be placed in the scrap metal bin. A speader beam is used to spread loads when lifting items with a crane.

While the apprentice had received training in the use of the oxygen/acytelene manifold set, neither he nor the trades assistant had seen or performed the cutting up of a spreader beam of this size previously. This was a 'one-off' task not previously performed at the workplace. Once the general instructions to transport and cut up the spreader beam had been given, the apprentice and the trades assistant were left unsupervised. No formal risk assessment of the task was undertaken prior to the instructions being given to the apprentice and the trades assistant. No specific instructions in relation to the precise detail as to how the spreader might be safely cut up were given.

The trades assistant transported the spreader beam from where it was stored to the area in which the work was to be performed by using a forklift. The trades assistant put the spreader beam down onto some wooden blocks that the apprentice had placed on the ground so that the spreader beam would be supported in a position slightly elevated above ground level. The apprentice then proceeded to use the oxygen/acetylene manifold set to cut through the beam in two places but found he could not cut all the way through the beam. The apprentice and the trades assistant decided to turn the beam over with the industrial lift truck so that the apprentice could complete the cuts from the other side of the spreader beam.

The trades assistant raised the spreader beam approximately one metre off the ground using the industrial fork lift and then, with a person at each end of the beam, they tried to manually flip the spreader beam over while it was on the arms of the industrial fork lift. The spreader beam slipped off the industrial lift truck and fell onto the ground. The apprentice's left hand was caught under the spreader beam as it fell and his left hand was crushed under the beam. As a result of the crush injury he received, the apprentice's left small finger had to be surgically amputated.

It was practicable for the defendant to have:
(a) ensured that a full assessment of all risks involved in the one-off task of cutting up the Steel Spreader was performed prior to the task being attempted; and/or

(b) ensured that a procedure had been developed to perform the one-off task of cutting up the Steel Spreader safely; and/or

(c) ensured that a safe system of safely lifting the Steel Spreader was identified and implemented or alternatively that a means of cutting the Steel Spreader without needing to lift it was identified and implemented; and/or

(d) ensured that the employees allocated the task of cutting up the Steel Spreader had the skills to safely perform the task; and/or

(e) ensured that the employees were aware of the risks of attempting to manipulate the Steel Spreader, particularly if the Steel Spreader had been partially cut and/or lost any structural integrity during the task; and/or

(f) provided supervision to the employees in the performance of the one-off job of cutting up the Steel Spreader.

There was little cost involved in taking such measures as the defendant had experienced and qualified employees on the premises on the day in question and it would only have taken some additional time to have performed the risk assessment, given the full instruction and provided the necessary supervision.

The defendant pleaded guilty at the first opportunity.

Outcome Summary Convicted
Conviction Date 22 Nov 2004
Court Perth Court of Petty Sessions
Fine $22,000
Costs $618.45
Charge Number 29788/04