Company fined $600,000 following apprentice’s death.

Source: Work Safe Victoria – Friday 24 Jun 2022

A road tanker manufacturer has been convicted and fined $600,000 following the asphyxiation death of an apprentice while working inside a tanker at its Cranbourne West factory in 2018.

Marshall Lethlean Industries Pty Ltd was sentenced in the Melbourne Country Court today after earlier pleading guilty to a single charge of failing to ensure, as far as reasonably practicable, that the workplace was safe and without risk to health.

The court heard that in October 2018, the apprentice, who had been working at the factory less than two weeks, was asked to undertake work inside a tanker.

The previous day another worker had left a welder inside the tanker along with a wire feeder, which was in a state of disrepair and leaked argon gas overnight, reducing oxygen.

The apprentice died of asphyxiation after entering the confined space of the tanker to conduct the work.

The court found it was reasonably practicable for the company to have provided and maintained a system of work that required a qualified welding inspector to routinely inspect and maintain equipment; require workers to store the welder and wire feeder outside the tanker when not in use; and require workers to turn off the argon gas main at the end of use.

Acting WorkSafe Executive Director of Health and Safety Adam Watson said the incident was an absolute tragedy that could have been avoided.

“The dangers of working in confined spaces are well known and there is no excuse for employers who fail to control the risks,” Mr Watson said.

“This incident highlights just how important simple measures such as maintenance and storage procedures are to keeping workers and workplaces safe. Sadly a failure to do so in this case cost a young man his life.”

To control the risks of working in confined spaces employers should:

  • First, consider whether the work can be done another way without entering the confined space. For example, provide outlets and facilities for cleaning to eliminate the need for entry.
  • Test the atmosphere to quantify the level of oxygen, atmospheric contaminants and any flammable gas or vapour present in the space. Then you can determine appropriate risk controls.
  • Ensure employees do not enter a confined space unless they have been issued with an entry permit for the space and there is a stand-by person watching the work from outside the space.
  • Establish entry and exit procedures for the confined space, and emergency procedures. Ensure these are communicated to your employees.
  • Put signs on or near any confined space, and at each entry point, to warn that only people who have been properly trained and have an entry permit may enter.
  • Ensure appropriate respiratory protective equipment (air-supplied or air purifying) is used where required.
  • Provide employees with enough information, instruction and training to do their work safely and without risks to health. This may include for example, training in hazard identification and risk control methods, entry permit procedures, emergency procedures and use of respiratory protective equipment.

Roofing company fined after worker’s fall.

Source: Work Safe Victoria – Friday 10 Jun 2022

A roofing company has been fined $20,000 after a fall at a residential construction site in Mount Duneed.

CSR Building Products Ltd, trading as Monier Roofing, pleaded guilty in the Geelong Magistrates’ Court on Wednesday to one charge of failing to ensure the workplace was safe and without risks to health.

The company was sentenced, with conviction, and was also ordered to pay costs of $4,950.

The court heard that in May 2018, an employee of a contractor was on the roof of the single storey site nailing roof battens in place when it is believed he stepped on an unsecured batten, causing him to fall more than three metres onto a concrete slab below, suffering serious injuries.

WorkSafe inspectors who attended the site found that the method used to install the battens was to rest each batten against a tack nail, only nailing them in once all the trusses were in place.

This was at odds with a Safe Work Method Statement (SWMS) prepared for the work which stipulated that, to prevent falls, a progressive battening technique be used to provide a secure platform for workers as they made their way up the roofline. However, the SWMS did not provide details on how to undertake progressive battening.

The court heard that it was reasonably practicable for the company to provide a SWMS for the roofing work which included detailed instructions on the installation of roof battens.

On 17 March 2020, the contractor who employed the worker pleaded guilty to not working in accordance with the SWMS and was, without conviction, fined $15,000 and ordered to pay costs of $5,751.59.

WorkSafe Executive Director of Health and Safety Narelle Beer said the dangers of falls from heights were well known and WorkSafe would not hesitate to prosecute any employer who put their workers’ health at risk through unsafe work practises.

“Even falls from relatively low heights can leave people with permanent, debilitating injuries,” Dr Beer said.

“As an employer, it’s your responsibility to keep your workplace safe, including protecting your workers by ensuring safe systems of work are being followed.”

To prevent falls from height employers can:

  • Eliminate the risk by, where practicable, doing all or some of the work on the ground or from a solid construction.
  • Use a passive fall prevention device such as scaffolds, perimeter screens, guardrails, safety mesh or elevating work platforms.
  • Use a positioning system, such as a travel-restraint system, to ensure employees work within a safe area.
  • Use a fall arrest system, such as a harness, catch platform or safety nets, to limit the risk of injuries in the event of a fall.
  • Use a fixed or portable ladder, or implement administrative controls.

Amendments to the model WHS laws

Amendments to the model Work Health and Safety (WHS) laws have been published on the Safe Work Australia website:
model WHS Act and Explanatory Memorandum
model WHS Regulations and Explanatory Statement

The amendments implement a number of recommendations from the 2018 Review of the model WHS laws.
The amendments do not automatically apply in a jurisdiction. For the model WHS Act and model WHS Regulations to have effect in a jurisdiction they must be enacted in that jurisdiction.

They include amendments to:
– the model WHS Regulations to deal with psychosocial risks (recommendation 2)
– work group provisions (recommendation 7b)
– health and safety representative (HSR) training (recommendation 10)
– remove the 24-hour notice period for entry permit holders (recommendation 15)
– align the process for issuing service of notices to provide clarity and consistency (recommendation 16)
– enable inspectors to require production of documents and answers to questions within 30 days of any inspector’s entry to a workplace (recommendation 17)
– clarify that a WHS regulator’s power to obtain information relevant to investigations of potential breaches of the model WHS laws has extra-territorial application (recommendation 18)
– clarify the circumstances in which WHS regulators can share information between jurisdictions (recommendation 19)
– include gross negligence as a fault element in the Category 1 offence (recommendation 23a)
– improve regulator accountability for investigation progress (recommendation 24)
– prohibit insurance for WHS penalties (recommendation 26)
– improve record keeping and operator training for amusement devices and passenger ropeways (recommendation 28)
– compliance with Standards not mandatory unless specified (recommendation 31b)
– give effect to recommendations that are minor or technical in nature.

Go to the Implementation of the WHS ministers’ agreed response to the Review of the Model WHS Laws web page for a more detailed overview of the amendments.

For information on WHS laws in your jurisdiction, please contact your WHS regulator.

Are You Keeping Your Workers Safe?

Article by WAHA CEO Scott Barber, for Sourceable.

With workplace risk profiles constantly changing and the training & equipment maintenance requirements increasing each year, many organisations go into reactive mode with regards to managing their working at heights systems and PPE.

As a result, we see organisations adopting a “tick the box” risk management system just to meet the minimum compliance requirements.

We need to look to more effective and proactive ways to manage the changing risks of our workplaces and ensure safety protocols meet these needs. When we do this, we discover ways to remove the layers of complexity from equipment application and selection, make it more simple to train our teams and maintain their skills, ensure what we specify is fit for purpose and all while comply with any Regulatory requirements we face.

The High Cost of Worker Non-Compliance
When a decision is made to work at height without applying the basics of safe work practice, regardless if the task will take just a few minutes or is occurring at a low height, the risks, and potential costs, can be enormous.

Fall-related injuries and deaths can be devastating on a physical, emotional, and financial level for the worker, the worker’s family, and the employer. In addition to the potential loss of life or serious life-altering injuries, a fall can easily cripple or bankrupt a business.

What do you need to do?

Applying the Hierarchy of Controls is the first step in addressing the risk:

  • Avoid work at heights, where possible.
  • When it is necessary to work at heights, ensure that workers are not exposed to unnecessary risks.
  • Where it is not possible to eliminate fall risk, use a suitable fall protection system to minimize consequences of a fall.
  • Choose PPE and access methods that allow workers to perform their tasks with minimal interference.

How do you decide what equipment to use?

The nature of the work being carried out needs to be the starting point as not all harness and connection methods will be suitable for all tasks. As part of the risk profiling, the potential for passive protection measures needs to be addressed before prioritising personal protection (PPE) measures.

When addressing equipment selection criteria look at all the risks, not just those associated with the ‘use’ phase. Duration and frequency of use will help determine  whether permanent solutions are required, or if the application of a PPE based access method is more suitable.

What is passive protection?

Passive protection is a system design which can protect more than one person and, once properly installed or erected, requires minimal actions by the user to make sure it will perform. Examples include hand rails, scaffolds and Elevated Work Platforms (EWPs) which use guard rails to reduce the risk of a fall.

What is personal protection?

Personal protection is equipment which provides protection to the user/wearer only and requires actions by the individual, including correct fitting and adjusting, for it to perform appropriately. Examples include fall arrest equipment including harnesses, lanyards, Personal Fall Limiters (PFLs) and Self Retracting Life Lines (SRLs) which minimise the consequences of a fall.

This also includes fixed/engineered systems like Horizontal Life Lines and Vertical Life Lines (ladder systems) to provide permanent connection means in collaboration with appropriate PPE.

This method is termed “Collective Protection” as it involves multiple elements from the Hierarchy of Controls.

Please note, the use of personal protection requires appropriate training in working at height, and consideration for skills maintenance should be accommodated in any ongoing training matrix.

What else do you need to do?

Ensure all personnel who select, assemble, use and supervise the use of the equipment have been suitably trained and have access to all the relevant information relating to their safe use. This includes understanding equipment cross-compatibility and the inspection and maintenance requirements as per the manufacturer’s guidelines and all relevant Standards.

Fall Clearance

If you have not determined the available clearance below the working surface and calculated your total fall clearance properly, then a fall leading to potential serious or fatal injuries may still occur regardless of the fall arrest system being used.

Safe fall clearance is required to ensure that any fall from a working platform will be arrested before a worker can impact the ground or any other obstruction such as building extrusions, machinery or pipework.

Scott Barber is Chief Executive Officer of the Working at Height Association of Australia