A prominent raw materials processor in South Australia has been fined more than $90,000 and ordered to pay compensation over an incident in which a worker was fatally injured in a fall.
Sibelco Australia pleaded guilty in the SA Industrial Relations Court to a breach of section 19(1) of the Occupational Health Safety and Welfare Act 1986 in that it failed to maintain safe systems of work.
SafeWork SA prosecuted after investigating the death of maintenance fitter, Robert Cartwright at the company’s Glenshera site, near Mt. Compass in September 2009.
Cartwright and a colleague were securing piping whilst on an elevated work platform at the site, where silica for glass production is mined.
During this task, Cartwright fell through a hole in the platform three metres to the ground.
The investigation found obvious safety shortcomings in the performance of the work: no job safety analysis was done to acknowledge and manage the risk posed by the hole; and Cartwright was not wearing any fall protection equipment.
Industrial Magistrate Michael Ardlie was told that the company had extensive safety systems in place at a national corporate level. He said these should have been followed through:
“Unfortunately the practical application of the systems that were in existence was not part of the culture at the site,” he said.
“Too much reliance was place upon a verbal communication of the risks associated with the task at hand.”
He fined the company $93,750 plus costs, after a discount of 25 per cent to acknowledge the company’s cooperation, early plea, contrition and remedial action, which included covering the platform hole with plywood after the incident.
The case highlights the need for formal written systems to reinforce the necessity to think and act effectively to manage hazardous tasks, according to SafeWork SA.
“The Magistrate’s highlighting of how a culture of shortcuts on safety procedures arises should serve as a warning to all employers,” said acting executive director, Bryan Russell.
“The formality of a job safety analysis is there because it focuses everyone’s minds on not just doing the job, but doing it safely.”