Experienced operator contributed to colleague's death
WHS Queensland vs Robert Poida (June 2018)
Mr Poida was a crane operator employed by Tranzblast Coating Services. Mr Poida was an experienced crane operator, and the supervisor at a site in his workplace.
On 23 November 2015, Mr Poida was operating an 8-tonne mobile yard crane within the workplace to transport a large steel pipe. He asked another worker to sling the pipe and steady it by walking close to the crane’s front left wheel, and in the process that worker was struck and killed by the crane.
The deceased worker was not a licensed dogman, which was required for this type of work. Moreover, a tagline should have been used to steady the load. A tagline was available in the workplace, and Mr Poida had been trained to use it in accordance with his employer’s Safe Work Method Statement (SWMS) for load-shifting.
A third-party spotter could also have been used to ensure the pedestrian worker remained at a safe distance away from the crane’s wheels.
Mr Poida pleaded guilty to a breach of s 32 of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (Qld) in the Ipswich Magistrates Court.
The Court accepted that Mr Poida’s familiarity with crane operation had contributed to the breach, in that his experience turned into complacency when he permitted the worker to be in close proximity to the crane wheels.
Despite Mr Poida’s early plea, lack of previous conviction, and good references, a conviction was recorded due to the serious nature of his breach resulting in death. The Court ordered him to pay a fine of $15,000, and costs of $1,092.55.
Experience is not an excuse for being less vigilant with health and safety requirements, nor for ignoring the workplace systems that are in force. Moreover, a worker should never be required to perform work that they are not licensed to perform. One worker’s experience does not make up for another worker’s lack of qualifications.
Please note: Case law is reported as correct and current at time of publishing. Be aware that cases in lower courts may be appealed and decisions subsequently overturned.
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