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Prosecution Details

Defendant P & O Ports Limited
Section 19(1) and 19(7)
Offence Date Tuesday, 10 August 2004
Description of Breach(es)

Being an employer, failed, so far as was practicable, to provide and maintain a working enviornment 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

1. P & O Limited (the Accused), is, and was at all material times, a company registered by the Australian Securities and Investment Commission and having the ACN 000 049 301.

2. The Accused is a provider of container and bulk and general cargo handling and specialist stevedoring services.

3. On 10 August 2004 the Accused was conducting stevedoring operations located at the Port Hedland Wharf, Wharf Road, Port Hedland, namely discharging steel rail on behalf of a customer, Onesteel Whyalla Steelworks ("Onesteel").

4. On 10 August 2004 this location was a "workplace" for the purposes of the Occupational Safety and Health Act 1984 ("the Act").

5. The injured person worked for the Accused at the workplace.

6. On 10 August 2004 he was an employee of the Accused for the purposes of the Act.

7. One of the services performed by the Accused was the unloading of lengths of railway from ships onto the wharf.

8. To unload the lengths of railway, a crane and "spreader bar" were used. The spreader bar was owned and supplied to the Accused by Onesteel.

9. A spreader bar ("the Bar") is a large "I beam" approximately 13m long, 462 mm high and 180 mm wide and with a weight in excess of 2 tonnes. The Bar has removable plates affixed to it at each end and wire rope slings affixed along its length. Each plate has a number of "shelves" on which lengths of railway can be placed.

10. When not in use, the end plates were removed from the Bar to make storage easier. To remove the end plates, it was necessary for the bar to be elevated off the ground.

11. The Accused did not have in place any written procedure for performing this task.

12. On 10 August 2004 a team of 3 employees, including the injured person, were given the task of dismantling a Bar left on the wharf by the previous shift that had unloaded the ship.

13. The team elevated the Bar using two stacks of wooden gluts (one stack under each end of the Bar) and took its end plates off. To obtain the required height, it was necessary to stack several gluts on top of each other.

14. The Bar was placed in an "upright" position on the gluts such that it rested on its short side of 180 mm. Once the plates were removed one of the employees transported them to a storage area using a forklift. The two remaining employees tied up the wire rope slings so that they would not hang loose during the transportation of the Bar.

15. The injured person was in the course of securing the wire rope slings when the Bar toppled and fell onto his legs. A forklift operator was close by and used the tynes of the forklift to elevate the Bar off his legs.

16. He was subsequently taken to Port Hedland Hospital before being transferred to Perth with fracture and crush injuries to both his legs.

17. As a consequence of the Bar falling on him, he has suffered permanent injuries to both legs.

18. His injuries have been assessed as being:

a. a 25% permanent disability of his left knee;

b. a 15% permanent disability to his left ankle; and

c. a 45% permanent disability to his right leg.

19. His injuries are "serious injuries" for the purposes of the Act.

20. None of the 3 employees engaged in the task of removing the end plates from the Bar that day had performed the task before.

21. None of these 3 employees were given any instruction as to how the task ought to be performed or the risk of injury that toppling of the beam might have caused.

22. Practicable measures available to the Accused to reduce the risk of this type of injury occurring included a system of work that included, either individually or in combination:

a. instruction in how this task ought to be performed and the risks associated with it; or

b. provision of a purpose built device such as a cradle in which the Bar could securely rest whilst work was being performed.

Outcome Summary Plead Guilty
Conviction Date 29 Feb 2008
Court Perth Magistrate's Court
Fine $40,000
Costs $947.70
Charge Number PE1924/07