PPK Demolition Pty Ltd pleaded guilty at the Melbourne Magistrates Court last week to breaching the 2004 OHS Act for failing to provide a safe working environment and failing to provide or maintain safe systems of work. It was fined without conviction and ordered to pay $4564 in costs.
On 4 March 2015 the company was carrying out demolition work on an old structure at the rear of a residence in Prahran to make way for a double-storey extension.
The worker, who was 22 at the time, was using the skid steer loader to collect debris from the rear of the property and drive it 15 metres along the driveway to a skip bin.
The court heard that the worker loaded a piece of concrete weighing 920kg into the bucket of the machine, which exceeded its rated operating capacity of 748kg.
As he raised the bucket above the skip bin to empty it, the machine tipped forward and ejected him from his seat. The worker’s right leg slipped outside the cabin and was crushed just above the knee as the hydraulic arms of the bucket came down. The worker’s leg was later amputated in hospital.
The court heard that while the worker did not hold formal operator qualifications, a supervisor had observed him operating the machine and believed him to be competent. The court also heard that while the worker had been told to wear a seatbelt, it was not worn at the time of the incident.
The company accepted it had breached its duty as an employer by not providing safe work instruction to direct employees on how to estimate load size or safe loading of the skid steer loader. It also had not ensured employees were competent in assessing the weight of a load to ensure it complied with loading specifications.
WorkSafe Executive Director Health and Safety, Marnie Williams, said it was critical for employers to ensure everyone on site understood the risks associated with operating heavy vehicles and machinery.
“A young man lost his leg because a discussion about safe operation of this machine was not had,” Ms Williams said.
“Construction and demolition are high-risk due to the heavy machinery and vehicles involved, which means assumptions should never be made as they can turn a high-risk task into a deadly one.
“A young man at the start of his working career has now had his life changed forever.”
Ms Williams said workplace safety was everyone’s responsibility.
“It is critically important that employers, supervisors and anyone in charge of others have regular discussions about safety, no matter how experienced they believe workers to be.
“Demolition sites are dynamic and, as the site changes, so do the risks. It’s vital that everyone keeps safety front of mind to prevent these kinds of horrific incidents.”