VIC: $275,000 fine for pipe manufacturer after worker’s death

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.
Tuesday, 15 February, 2022 - 12:15
Incidents & prosecutions

A concrete pipe manufacturing company in Victoria has been convicted and fined $275,000 following the death of a worker at a Shepparton factory in 2018.

Precast Civil Industries Pty Ltd, trading as MC Pipes, was sentenced in the Melbourne County Court after pleading guilty to a single charge of failing to provide or maintain safe systems of work, so far as was reasonably practicable.

The court heard that one of the pieces of machinery the company would use to manufacture concrete pipes was known as the red radial press, which was cleaned daily at the end of production.

Unlike other machinery at the factory, the red radial press had no self-cleaning apparatus, meaning workers were required to hammer hardened concrete residue off the rollers underneath the concrete feed conveyor.

In September 2018, the 25-year-old worker was undertaking this task when he made contact with the rollers, causing him to be drawn into the machine and crushed by the conveyor.

A WorkSafe Victoria investigation found there was no documented procedure in place for cleaning the conveyor rollers, and identified a number of measures that were reasonably practicable for the company to implement to reduce the risks of entanglement.

This included installing self-cleaning rollers; stopping employees from bypassing existing safety measures that would have turned the machine off; and ensuring the underside of the conveyor belt was reached by alternative means, such as a forklift and cage.

WorkSafe Victoria executive director of health and safety Narelle Beer said it was crucial duty holders ensure safe systems of work are in place.

“Employers must ensure they assess all the risks in their workplace and do everything reasonably practicable to protect their workers or WorkSafe will take enforcement action,” Beer said.

“In this tragic case, there were simple steps the employer could have taken to reduce the health and safety risk to their workers and ultimately prevent a senseless loss of life.”