Engineering company fined $250,000 after fatal crush

The following article is a news item provided for the benefit of the Workplace Health and Safety profession. Its content does not necessarily reflect the views of the Australian Institute of Health & Safety.
Thursday, 1 June, 2023 - 12:30
Incidents & prosecutions

An engineering company in Cobram Victoria has been convicted and fined $250,000 after a worker was fatally crushed and another seriously injured in an incident at a Leitchville factory in 2017.

A-1 Engineering (Vic) was sentenced in the Melbourne County Court after being found guilty by a jury in the Shepparton County Court on a single charge of failing to provide the necessary supervision to enable employees to perform their work safely and without health risks.

The company had been found not guilty on three charges of failing to provide a safe working environment, failing to provide and maintain a safe system of work, and failing to provide necessary instruction.

The court heard A-1 Engineering had been engaged to provide labour and engineering support to assist with the dismantling and packing of equipment at a decommissioned cheese factory for relocation to New Zealand.

Work was initially directed by a representative from another company, however, they were not on site when a condenser weighing 770 kilograms was moved into a closed-top shipping container with a crane in December 2017.

Two A-1 Engineering workers were inside the container preparing to remove skates from underneath the condenser when it fell off a jack and crushed them.

A 59-year-old man died at the scene while another man was seriously injured.

A WorkSafe investigation found that A-1 Engineering should have ensured that the workers were actively supervised while undertaking the task, that the supervisor was aware of their qualifications and experience, and that their qualifications and experience were appropriate for the task.

Andrew Buchanan Engineering, the company directing work at the factory, was separately convicted and fined $300,000 after pleading guilty to two charges in December 2021.

It was crucial that workers were appropriately supervised and had the required qualifications and experience before performing high-risk tasks, said WorkSafe Victoria executive director of health and safety Narelle Beer.

“Working with and around heavy machinery and plant is inherently dangerous, so it’s critical that employers ensure their workers have the required supervision, qualifications, and experience to work safely,” Beer said.

“WorkSafe won’t hesitate to prosecute duty holders who fail to do all that is reasonably practicable to protect health and safety in their workplaces.”