Manufacturer fined $400,000 after workplace death

A Wodonga steel fabrication workshop has been convicted and fined $400,000 after a worker died when he was crushed between two staircases.
News article published

Tuesday 10 Dec 2019

Industries and topics
  • Construction
  • Manufacturing
  • Foundry and metal fabrication

SJ & TA Structural Pty Ltd pleaded guilty in the Wodonga County Court on Friday to one charge of failing to provide a workplace that was safe and without risks to health and safety.

The court heard that in August 2016 the company used scrap wood to separate stacked, 10-metre long steel staircases that weighed between 3.2 and 3.6 tonnes.

The 33-year-old victim was detaching crane hooks between staircases when the timber separating them broke, causing the metal structures to slide sideways and collapse on top of him.

The court heard that to ensure the safety of its employees it had been reasonably practicable for SJ & TA Structural to use wooden sleepers, rather than scrap wood, or to not stack the staircases at all.

WorkSafe Executive Director of Health and Safety Julie Nielsen said there was no excuse for failing to properly assess the risks that stacking large, awkward objects pose to workers.

"This tragic incident could have been prevented had a safe system of work been used to prevent the staircases toppling," Ms Nielsen said.

"Using poor quality scrap wood to separate steel items weighing as much as 3.6 tonnes is simply unacceptable.

"WorkSafe will not hesitate to prosecute employers who expose their workers the risk of death or serious injury by not taking workplace health and safety issues seriously."

When storing structural steel employers should ensure:

  • The work is planned, including the development of a safe system of work so structural steel can be safely unloaded and supported.
  • The steel is placed on firm, level ground.
  • The erection sequence is taken into account to prevent double handling.
  • Appropriate packing and supports, provided and installed by a suitably competent person, are used to prevent items tipping, falling, or collapsing.
  • Where possible, direct support from the ground is used to support large, steel structures, rather than using cantilevers or excessive lengths of packing.
  • Work is monitored and supervised by a competent person who is experienced in moving awkward loads.
  • Workers not directly involved with the work are prevented from accessing the area by using an exclusion zone or perimeter fencing.

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