|Offender||Salini Australia Pty Ltd (ACN: 158 955 885)|
|Charge||Charge Number||Offence Date||Date Convicted||Regulation||Section||Penalty Provision||Penalty Imposed||Date Sentenced|
|1||PE26518/2021||7 July 2018||8th October 2021||19(1) 19A(2)||3A(3)(b)(i)||$200,000.00||22nd November 2021|
|Description of Breach(es)||
Being an employer, failed, so far as practicable, to provide and maintain a working environment in which the employees of the employer are not exposed to hazards and by that contravention caused serious harm to an employee.
The Forrestfield Airport Link Project (FAL Project) is a project to construct a new railway service to the eastern suburbs of Perth. The FAL Project includes the construction of two tunnels from Forrestfield to Bayswater and three new train stations at High Wycombe, Airport Central and Redcliffe. The majority of the new 8.5 kilometre double track line is located in two underground tunnels.
The offender was a subcontractor responsible for providing most of the workers on the FAL Project.
At the time of the offence preparations were being made to relaunch Tunnel Boring Machine 1 (TBM 1) to start mining from Airport Central Station to Redcliffe Station in tunnel one. A tunnel boring machine excavates below the ground surface creating a tunnel behind it as it bores through the earth.
There were nine pipes servicing TBM 1. The pipes were used to convey materials like grout, slurry, industrial water, and high pressure compressed air to and from TBM 1.
In June 2018 TBM 1 broke through into the Airport Central Station.
At the time of the offence, some service pipe relocation work was being undertaken as part of the preparations to relaunch TBM 1 to mine from Airport Central Station to Redcliffe Station. The service pipes that service TBM 1 were in a phase of transition. The service pipes had to be disconnected to cross the Airport Central Station and then reconnected to allow TBM 1 to operate normally and recommence mining operations. Flexible rubber hoses were used to get around certain corners in the tunnel.
A pressurised flexible air hose, in the event of hose failure or detachment, can cause the hose to whip violently due to the sudden release of energy, causing serious injury to persons in the vicinity.
The offender recognised that hoses under high pressure are a hazard. The offender’s Safe Work Method Statement Number 0551 dated 29 April 2018 (SWMS 0551) applied to the Airport Central Station breakthrough, crossing and relaunch (including maintenance and ancillary works).
In SWMS 0551, a safety device called a “whiplash restraint” is identified as a control measure to be used to secure compressed air lines. A “whiplash restraint” is also known as a whipcheck, hose whip restraint, safety cable or safety chain (whipcheck).
A whipcheck is a strong, rated steel cable with two loop ends which can connect to one end of a flexible rubber hose and to the other end of the adjoining pipe or hose. A whipcheck is a safety device used to help prevent a hose, in the event of hose or coupling failure, from whipping and striking anyone in the vicinity.
Failure to implement safety control
SWMS 0551 provided that a control measure to be implemented was to “ensure compressed air; water; grout lines and couplings are appropriately secured by means of …whiplash restraints, etc”. However, no whipchecks were installed on the rubber hoses when the rubber hoses were installed by the night shift crew the night before the incident.
The offender, via its authorised representative, accepts that whipchecks should always be installed on the connections of flexible rubber hoses.
Work being undertaken at the time of the incident
At the time of the offence, the work being undertaken was the installation of pipe extensions.
On 7 July 2018 three employees of the offender (who were tunnel workers belonging to the TBM 1 work crew) (Work Crew) were tasked with connecting a steel grout line pipe in underground tunnel 1 situated near the Airport Central Station platform in the north west corner. The Work Crew also noticed a cooling water leakage in the work area and began to fix this leaking pipe.
Entry into the work area was via a small entry point. As the entry point was so small the Work Crew had to crawl through feet first or head first to enter. The work area was a tight and cramped space between temporary concrete segments and the station wall. To carry out the work tasks it was necessary for the Work Crew, who were large men, to walk on the service pipes.
Two of the service pipes in the work area contained high pressure compressed air that was being fed through the pipes via an above ground air compressor in Forrestfield.
On 7 July 2018, at approximately 4:55pm, there was a loud explosion and high pressure air started expelling from one of the hoses and blasting the work area. One of the six inch flexible rubber hoses in the work area containing high pressure compressed air had detached from the steel pipe resulting in an unrestrained whiplash motion of the hose.
One of the Work Crew was thrown over the flexible rubber hoses and pulled himself out of the work area via the small entry point. Another member of the Work Crew was blasted with high pressure air and quickly got out of the work area.
Another member of the Work Crew, (injured person), was struck to the face by the whipping flexible rubber hose, causing him to be knocked unconscious and inflicting serious injuries.
The extrication time of the injured person was prolonged and took approximately one hour.
The injured person was lifted on a stretcher, via a crane, to platform level. Another larger crane lifted the injured person on the stretcher inside a man cage to the surface, and he was then taken by ambulance to Royal Perth Hospital.
The injured person sustained extensive injuries including the following:
a) a traumatic brain injury including multiple right temporal parietal haemorrhagic contusions and memory loss;
b) severe maxillofacial fractures, including a Le Fort fracture Type 1 on the right side of the face, and a Le Fort fracture Type 2 on the left side of the face;
c) nasal bone fracture, palatal split, right medial orbital floor fracture and multiple facial lacerations;
d) open fracture of the right third and fourth metacarpal bones in the hand; and
e) commotio retinae of the right eye.
The injured person underwent surgery for approximately nine hours at Royal Perth Hospital from the maxillofacial team (for the mandible fracture and lacerations) and neurosurgical team (for traumatic brain injury) and was placed into an induced coma for 11 days.
The injured person was in the Intensive Care Unit from 7 July 2018 to 18 July 2018 and then transferred to Fiona Stanley Hospital for further rehabilitation.
The injured person had post-traumatic amnesia for 26 days which is suggestive of a very severe brain injury.
Subsequently, the injured person has received extensive medical intervention including:
a) surgery for various facial and dental issues, including implementation of a plate in the left jaw;
b) root canal surgery and replacement of missing teeth;
c) plastic surgery for facial scarring;
d) extensive occupational therapy (for neurological rehabilitation); and
Knowledge of the hazard
The offender was aware of the risk posed by rubber hoses under pressure and the risk posed by an unrestrained rubber hose in the event of pipe failure. This is evident in that the offender had, prior to the incident, identified the risk posed by the hazard and identified control measures.
In the Offender’s document entitled “Construction Method Statement TBM Operations” (CMS), the risks associated with tunnelling are identified. The CMS provides that the CMS “identifies the methodology, risks and controls associated with the procedures to be followed during the operation of the TBM”.
The CMS recognises the risk of “high pressure hose breaks” and provides that the possible consequence of this risk includes “injuries”. Various control measures are provided to mitigate this risk, including that “[a]ll high pressure hoses to be fitted with ‘whip‐checks’”.
One of the “risk treatments” in the CMS includes a reference to “SafeWork Australia Guideline for Tunnelling” showing the Offender was aware of industry standards relating to tunnelling work.
In the “SafeWork Australia Guideline for Tunnelling”, working with compressed air is recognised as a tunnelling risk and “fitting hose restraint devices i.e. whipchecks…” is identified as a control measure.
The CMS includes, as an appendix, a “Safe Work Method Statement” for “TBM Operations”. In this Safe Work Method Statement, in respect of the “activity sequence/job steps” of “pipe extensions” the following is provided under the heading of “Potential Hazards/Risk”:
“Bad connections between hoses and tunnel pipe / Personnel injured by compressed air hoses”.
The control measure identified for this risk is:
“Safety cables to be provided in the air hoses and at hoses (sic) connections at pipe extension area”.
In SWMS 0551, the hazard associated with the work activity of “pipe extension and laying” was “personnel injured by compressed air hoses”. A control measure to mitigate against the risk posed by the hazard was “safety cables to be provided in the air hoses and at hoses (sic) connections at pipe extension area”.
In a safety document for the FAL project entitled “Workplace Health and Safety Management Plan” the hazard of pressurised equipment is identified and it provides relevantly that contractors must ensure that:
• “Employees are trained and competent in the use of such equipment;
• Employees tasked with the use of pressurised equipment are fully conversant with the hazards associated with pressurised equipment;
• All pressurised equipment shall undergo a documented daily pre-start and hoses are restrained or “whip checked” where appropriate”.
The Offender clearly identified a control measure to mitigate the risk posed by the hazard, however no representative of the Offender directed the control measure to be implemented, nor was there a procedure to check that the control measure was in place.
The Offender did not ensure that the control measures identified in its safety documents were followed. The Offender failed to ensure that the six inch rubber hose containing high pressure compressed air was appropriately secured with a whipcheck. No-one checked the installation of the pipes to ensure whipchecks were installed.
Prior to the incident, employees of the Offender, who were tunnel workers tasked with pipe installation and other duties in the vicinity of the service lines to TBM 1, were not given any specific training or instruction in relation to pipe installation and learnt by observing others while at work.
Tunnel workers, including the employees of the Offender who installed the flexible rubber hose involved in the incident the night before the incident, were not instructed to install whipchecks.
Following the Incident
Soon after the incident, the Offender installed whipchecks on a number of pipes at the workplace. In addition, after the incident, a lot of the flexible rubber hoses were removed and rigid pipes were installed instead of flexible rubber hoses.
The offender entered a guilty plea and was convicted on 8 October 2021.
Magistrate sentenced the offender on 22 November 2021 with a fine of $200,000 (maximum applicable penalty of $400,000) and ordered costs of $2847.50.
|Court||Magistrates Court of Western Australia - Perth|
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