On 20 July 2020, the defendant pleaded guilty and was sentenced in the Toowoomba Magistrates Court for one offence contrary to s32 of the Act, having failed to meet its primary safety duty under s19(1) of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011(the Act).
The defendant was a subcontractor on a construction project, having entered into an agreement with the primary contractor to supply a 60 metre mobile concrete pump and personnel to operate it. The pump was an Everdigm Model 60 CS-5, truck-mounted, concrete pump.
The defendant provided a "Job Safety and Environmental Analysis / Work Method Statement" ('SWMS'), which identified the potential hazards and associated risks. The agreement and the SWMS specified that the primary contractor would provide firm level ground for the set-up area. The SWMS required the defendant to specifically risk assess each set up and to complete a number of checklists.
The pump was required for a pour at one of the project sites on 15 August 2017. On the day prior, the site was prepared by the primary contractor for the pour, which included the removal of other plant and equipment from the area and an excavator widening the access. The defendant’s pump supervisor inspected the site but did not advise any managers of the defendant company that the pump was being relocated to that site.
On 15 August 2017, three employees from the defendant company were involved in the movement and set up of the pump. The outriggers were extended, with plastic pads placed under the “feet”. Timber dunnage was also placed under each outrigger and plastic pad.
The operator manual for the pump specified a maximum deviation from the horizontal of three degrees to maintain stability and avoid the risk of the truck tipping. It further noted that the axle of the truck should not be lifted clear off the ground.
The employees commenced unfolding the boom when the unit became unstable and the front outrigger slipped off the timber dunnage, resulting in outrigger digging into the ground.The pump was raised off the ground and the boom fell in a slow, but uncontrolled, manner onto a concrete outlet structure. Workers in the vicinity were alerted to the falling boom and were able to avoid being struck by it.
An investigation into the incident revealed that, contrary to the terms specified in the Agreement and the SWMS, the defendant company failed to carry out the necessary checklists and risk assessment for the setup of the pump. It also revealed that, contrary to the operator manual, the slope significantly exceeded three degrees in places and the axle had been lifted clear from the group during the set up.
In sentencing the defendant, the Magistrate took into account the defendant’s timely plea, lack of previous convictions, and immediate steps to remedy the systems they already had in place (including re-training staff and further refining SWMS within days of the incident).
He noted that the relevant risks had been identified and steps taken to eliminate them, and that, had the SWMS been followed, the incident would not have occurred.
The Magistrate accepted that the risk of injury or death was low, given the slow speed with which the fall occurred and the fact that workers in the vicinity had been instructed to stay out of the area of the boom. He also accepted this was not a case of reckless indifference and that the company had engaged in honest and diligent efforts to ensure its employees engaged in safe work practices.In light of the many mitigatory factors, the he did not consider that deterrence should be a significant factor in sentencing of this particular defendant.
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Section 32, duty 19(1), Work Health and Safety Act 2011