|Offender||Screenwest Pty Ltd (ACN 081 512 969)|
|Charge||Charge Number||Offence Date||Date Convicted||Regulation||Section||Penalty Provision||Penalty Imposed||Date Sentenced|
|1||AL1107/2020||9 May 2017||20th August 2020||19(1) 19A(2)||3A(3)(b)(i)||$33,000.00||20th November 2020|
|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, and by that contravention caused serious harm to an employee.
On 9 May 2017, Quentin Healy was operating a Caterpillar skid steer loader (the loader) at a construction site in the south Stirling Ranges (the workplace).
Quentin Healy was a director of Screenwest Pty Ltd (ACN 081 512 969) (Screenwest), and was Screenwest’s supervisor at the workplace. Screenwest had been contracted to carry out excavation works associated with the replacement of a culvert beneath a road at the workplace.
At approximately 1:45 p.m. on 9 May 2017, Quentin Healy reversed the loader into a confined area in which, to his knowledge, two of Screenwest’s employees were working.
One of the employees (the Victim) was struck and crushed by the loader, suffering serious leg injuries.
Screenwest operates an earthworks business in the south-west of Western Australia, trading as N J Healy & Sons. In its business, Screenwest uses powered mobile plant, such as the loader and excavators, on a daily basis.
At all material times, Quentin Healy has been a director of Screenwest, along with his two brothers.
The victim was a long-term employee of Screenwest.
The other employee is the son of Quentin Healy (Worker A). He had worked for Screenwest previously, but his first day of work as a full-time employee was 9 May 2017. At that time, he was aged 18.
Screenwest had been engaged by an infrastructure company to excavate and replace an existing culvert along a creek known as Gold Holes under Chester Pass Road in the south Stirling Ranges, north of Albany. The infrastructure company was itself contracted to a government department.
Screenwest commenced work at the workplace on 1 May 2017.
9 May 2017
On 9 May 2017, Screenwest cut away the bitumen over one lane of the road covering the culvert and then used an excavator to dig out that half of the culvert area.
Quentin Healy was operating the excavator. The Victim and Worker A were using two-way communication to act as spotters for Quentin Healy on either side of the excavation to address the risk of the excavator interacting with passing traffic.
Once the excavation was complete, Quentin Healy used the excavator to create a ramp down into the excavated trench.
The Victim and Worker A stored their two-way communication in a service truck.
The Victim entered the excavation via the ramp, and used the loader to lay granite ballast in the excavation to serve as the base for the new culvert installation.
The victim, Worker A, Quentin Healy and other Screenwest employees then dug a smaller trench within the excavation. The material dug out from the trench was placed in the bucket of the loader.
The other employees left the excavation, and it was decided between Quentin Healy, the Victim and Worker A that the Victim and Worker A would take laser levels of the ballast base.
Quentin Healy operated the loader to empty the material in its bucket away from the culvert. At first, he was facing towards and could see the Victim and Worker A working in the excavation, which was around 5.5 metres across and less than 8 metres long.
Quentin Healy then drove away and up the ramp, and ultimately manoeuvred the loader such that he was now reversing towards the culvert.
Quentin Healy was aware that the Victim and Worker A were working in the excavation. There were no spotters communicating with Quentin Healy.
The loader, like much powered mobile plant, has blind spots when reversing.
The only way that Quentin Healy could see where the Victim and Worker A were was by using a reversing camera installed in the loader.
When interviewed by WorkSafe inspectors, Quentin Healy said that the reversing camera screen became glary in the sun and he was therefore unable to see whether the Victim and Worker A were behind him. He acknowledged that he knew that he should not have reversed the loader in those circumstances.
The Victim and Worker A were performing laser levelling. Unbeknownst to Mr Healy, they were facing towards the culvert and Worker A moved slightly towards the culvert.
Quentin Healy reversed the loader into the Victim, knocking him to the ground. The treads of the loader rode up onto the Victim’s legs.
Alerted by the shouting of the Victim and Worker A, Quentin Healy drove forward off the Victim.
Mr Siwiecki’s injuries
As a result of the incident, the Victim suffered an open fracture to the right tibia and a closed fractured to the left femur. First aid was administered to the Victim until an ambulance arrived and transported him to Albany Hospital. He underwent preliminary procedures and was then flown to Perth, where he underwent further surgery, including open reduction of the left distal femur; internal fixation of the right tibia and fibula; and extensive skin grafts.
As at January 2018, the Victim had been unable to return to work.
Hazard control & risk management
The risk of powered mobile plant injuring a pedestrian, particularly while reversing, is well known across industry, and was well known to Screenwest and Quentin Healy.
There have been numerous similar incidents in Western Australia in recent years, some of them fatal.
The Commission for Occupational Safety and Health has publicly made available guidance material in relation to the safe movement of vehicles at workplaces, including blind spots, reversing, spotters and exclusion zones.
The loader manual also identified these risks.
Risk management at the workplace
Before commencing on 1 May 2017, and again on various dates including 9 May 2017, Screenwest employees, including the Victim, and Quentin Healy, signed on to a job hazard analysis document (JHA) prepared by Screenwest.
The JHA listed various hazards that might arise at workplaces. One of the hazards was ‘reversing plant’. The indicated level of risk was ‘extreme’, the highest possible.
However, the JHA did not identify the hazard of reversing plant as arising at the workplace. Consistently, no control measure was identified to address the hazard.
When interviewed by WorkSafe inspectors, the victim said that he neither read nor understood the JHA before he signed it.
It would have been simple for Screenwest to have controlled the hazard by using a spotter in effective communication with Quentin Healy, or by maintaining an exclusion zone while operating the loader.
When interviewed by WorkSafe inspectors, Quentin Healy said that these measures were ‘overlooked’, and that he ‘wasn’t thinking’.
Screenwest and Quentin Healy cooperated fully with the WorkSafe investigation, including through participation in a voluntary record of interview by Quentin Healy.
The accused entered an early plea of guilty and was convicted on 20 August 2020. On 20 November 2020 the Magistrate fined the Accused $33,000 and ordered costs of $3,500.00.
|Court||Magistrates Court of Western Australia - Albany|
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