WorkSafe Victoria charges absent supervisor over workplace death

By Michael Selinger on December 19th, 2019
  1. Work Health & Safety Act
  2. Workplace health & safety regulations


The importance of undertaking a risk assessment and consulting and co-ordinating work activities with other PCBUs has been highlighted in a significant prosecution commenced by WorkSafe Victoria this month in relation to a fatality in 2017 that occurred at a decommissioned cheese factory.

A 59-year-old man was killed and another man seriously injured when a condenser that had been craned into a shipping container fell and crushed them.

The work was being conducted by A-1 Engineering from Cobram and Big Hill Cranes from Bendigo.

A-1 Engineering is alleged to have failed to:

  1. ensure employees did not work under suspended loads;
  2. provide a system that eliminated risks while loading heavy equipment into an enclosed shipping container;
  3. take measures to ensure heavy equipment would not fall;
  4. ensure that loads were lifted in a controlled manner;
  5. ensure employees were appropriately qualified and experienced;
  6. provide a supervisor or supervision to ensure the work was carried out safely;
  7. provide necessary information, instruction and training to enable the work to be performed safely; and
  8. undertake a risk assessment.

Big Hill Cranes has been charged with failing to:

  1. ensure crane loads were not suspended over people;
  2. eliminate the risk of heavy equipment falling while being moved inside the shipping container;
  3. ensure that loads were lifted in a controlled manner; and
  4. undertake a risk assessment.

Charges against an individual

A personal prosecution has also been commenced against the supervising engineer, who was absent on the day of the incident, for failing to take reasonable care.

The charges allege the engineer failed to:

  1. provide a safe workplace and a safe system of work for moving heavy machinery;
  2. ensure people were qualified for the work;
  3. ensure there was a supervisor on site in his absence; and
  4. undertake a risk assessment of the work required.

Lessons learned

The prosecutions highlight that in circumstances where there is a high-risk activity being undertaken, it is critical for PCBUs to consult and co-ordinate their actions. In this case, it is alleged that a risk assessment was not undertaken which would have identified the steps required to be taken.


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