2 min read

Workers crushed to death while on a cigarette break

A supervising rigger for a crane hire company in Western Australia has been fined $4,000 plus $10,000 costs following an accident where two workers were crushed to death by a 3-tonne concrete panel.

Benjamin Paul Botica, leading hand and rigger for ABC Crane Hire, pleaded guilty to failing to take reasonable care to avoid adversely affecting the safety or health of others at a construction site in East Perth.

In the 2015 incident, four workers were standing in a footpath area used for smoking breaks, when two concrete tilt-up panels fell from an adjacent trailer, with one hitting and killing two of the workers.

The Perth Magistrates Court fined Mr Botica when it heard that he was nominated by the job hazard analysis as the person responsible for ensuring that control measures were in place to manage erecting the panels.

Mr Botica had failed to set up the footpath break area as an exclusion zone and did not ensure that the panels were removed in an order that did not compromise the stability of the load on the trailer.

The trailer, which was carrying three panels on each side of its A-frame, was parked on the camber of the road, which meant that the panels closest to the kerb were lower than those on the opposite side of the trailer.

Mr Botica was aware of the camber, but had the panels on the high side removed first. After the third panel on this opposite side was removed, two of the panels on the kerb side of the trailer fell, with one crushing the two workers.

WorkSafe WA Commissioner Darren Kavanagh said the case provided a reminder that construction site safety is not the sole responsibility of the employer.

“The OSH legislation places obligations on workers for their own safety and that of others in the vicinity,” he said.

“The result of reasonable care not being taken in this case was absolutely tragic, and should serve as a reminder that everyone in a workplace needs to keep safety and health as their top priority.”

In May last year, the company operating the trailer that carried the panels, Axedale Holdings trading as Shaw’s Cartage Contractors, was fined $160,000 plus $2,200 costs for failing to ensure the panels were individually restrained on the trailer before they were lifted off by the crane.

David John Ferguson, the site manager of the Jaxon construction site was also charged for the incident, but was acquitted in December last year.

He successfully argued that it was ABC Crane Hire’s responsibility to set up exclusion zones and that it was not practical as a site manager for him to oversee every activity of every subcontractor on a busy construction site.

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