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Prosecution Details

Offender O'Donnell Griffin Pty Limited (ACN 003 905 093)


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Charge Charge Number Offence Date Date Convicted Regulation Section Penalty Provision Penalty Imposed Date Sentenced
1 PH877/11 10 March 2008 8th August 2011 3A(2)(b)(i) $15,000.00 8th August 2011
Description of Breach(es)

Being an employer, failed so far as was practicable to provide and maintain a working environment in which its employees were not exposed to hazards; contrary to sections 19(1) and 19A(3) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act 1984.

Background Details

The accused, which carries on an electrical engineering and contracting business, was contracted for the work of relocating 66 kV Overhead Transmission Power Lines at Chainage 4500 of a railway line under construction connecting Port Hedland and the Cloud Break Mine.   On 10 March 2008 the relocating was being carried out approximately 15 kilometres south-west of Port Hedland.  The employees involved in the assembly of the power pole at the time of the incident were employees of the accused. 

The power pole was supplied in 4 sections, each approximately 4 metres long.  The sections were of hollow steel construction and tapered on the ends to allow each section to slide into the end of the other section to complete a pole length of approximately 12 metres.  The equipment used for the assembly process comprised 2 Nobles 5 tonne Rig-Mate Chain Blocks, 1 steel beam made to manufacturer's instructions, 1 steel beam with holes cut at each end, 1 LC3800kgs Beaver load restraint chain and 1 LC2500kgs Beaver load restraint chain. 

The employees laid out the pole sections on the ground in a straight line with the steel cross beams positioned at each end.  The chain blocks were hooked up to each side of the cross beam at one end of the pole and the load chains were hooked from the chain blocks to the steel cross beam at the other end of the pole sections.  Each chain block on each side required two employees to operate.  One employee would pull the chain while the other guided the chain through the chain block in a synchronised action.  The fifth employee would stand at the opposite end of the poles and strike the steel cross beam with a sledge hammer when instructed to do so to facilitate the even assembly of the tapered sections which were being winched together by the other employees pulling the chain blocks.

During the assembly an employee noticed that one of the steel beams had started to bow under the tension of the chains.  The Foreperson stopped the assembly and checked the rigging.  After checking the rigging, he gave instructions to continue pulling on the chain blocks.  At this point, one of the chains broke and the steel beam at the end where the fifth employee was working flung around and struck him on the leg. 

The fifth employee sustained a compound fracture to the left tibia and fibula (broken leg) after being struck with force by rigging equipment.

Investigation by WorkSafe revealed that the accident was caused by deviation from the manufacturer's recommended assembly method and use of the wrong type and rating of chain.

The power pole provider recommended a tested and approved assembly method as part of its instructions for the power poles.  The assembly method required the use of 5 tonne pull tirfors to connect the sections of the power pole.  Pull tirfors are a winch mechanism and tirfor cable (steel rope) combination designed to operate safely and effectively in horizontal tensioning applications.  They are supplied with the correct type and rating of tirfor cable and are fitted with a safety device to prevent overloading. 

On the day of the incident, the employees used chain blocks hired from a local supplier and chains obtained from a truck.  No check was done to ensure that the chains were of the correct type and rating.  It was revealed that the chains were not high tensile chains but were tie down chains designed for cargo load restraint applications.  In addition to being of the incorrect type, the chains were rated for 2.5 tonne and 3.8 tonne, well below the correct rating, which would have been above 5 tonne.  Those ratings needed to be downgraded to 1.875 tonne and 2.85 tonne, respectively, in accordance with the chain manufacturers load chart, because they were to be used in conjunction with grab hooks. 

The substitution of chain blocks for the pull tirfors at the accused's work place began approximately 8 months prior to the incident.  The substitution occurred because the accused did not stock pull tirfors at the work place.  It continued because it seemed to work.  No testing or assessment was conducted to ensure that it was safe. 

The use of the chain blocks to assemble the power poles was contrary to the design intent.  The chain block manufacturer's product information sheet stated that the chain blocks were designed for lifting loads vertically and should not be used for horizontal or angle hoisting.  The product information sheet warned that incorrect chain block usage and poor rigging practice could result in a dangerous situation that could cause serious injury or death.   

The chain blocks should not have been used without a safe system of work, particularly contrary to the design intent and in substitution for the recommended pull tirfors.  Importantly, chain blocks are not supplied with the correct type and rating of chain and are not fitted with a safety device to prevent overloading.  It was further revealed that it was a link in the 3.8 tonne chain which broke under tension.  The release of pressure on one side of the steel beam caused the steel beam to swing out and strike with force.  The correct type and rating of chain could easily have been obtained from local chain and chain equipment suppliers.

The accused did not provide a safe system of work or provide the employees with any information, instruction or training in respect of the use of chain blocks in the assembly of the power poles.  With the exception of the foreperson, the employees were not aware of the recommended assembly method.  They used the chain blocks as instructed by the foreperson.

It was practicable for the Accused to:

1.  Provide and maintain a safe system of work for the assembly of the power poles.

2.  Provide and maintain suitable information, instruction and training in respect of the assembly of the power poles. 

3.  Ensure that all equipment needed to safely and effectively assemble the power poles was available for use at the workplace. 

4.  Appoint supervisors who would direct and control the assembly of the power poles in a safe and effective manner.

Outcome Summary

The Accused plead guilty

Court Magistrates Court of Western Australia
Costs $1569.70

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