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Worker death at remote community results in $26,000 fine

Issue Date: Friday, 20 June 2008

An Aboriginal corporation has been fined $26,000 after the death of a worker in a mechanical workshop at a remote Aboriginal community.

Mindibungu Aboriginal Corporation pleaded guilty in the Kununurra Magistrates Court this week to failing to provide a safe working environment and, by that failure, causing the death of a worker.

A 17-year-old worker employed by Mindibungu was working in a mechanical workshop at the Billiluna Community as a workshop assistant trainee.

He and another worker were assisting with the repair and re-inflation of a large tyre for a backhoe when the tyre's tube burst from within the rim.

The man was catapulted approximately eight metres into the air and fell to the floor.  He passed away four days later.

The workshop did not have a safety cage, safety barrier or restraining device to be used during tyre inflation, and there were no safe working procedures in place for inflating tyres.

In addition, the worker was not given proper instruction on how to re-inflate a large tyre and was not properly supervised.

WorkSafe WA Commissioner Nina Lyhne said today that this case should send out a clear message that safe working procedures must be in place at all workplaces.

"Very little attention was paid to making this a safe workplace," Ms Lyhne said.  "The correct procedures were not used, no safety devices were in place, and the young workers were not provided with proper instruction or supervision.

"It's very important that remote communities understand that people working in these types of situations are in legitimate workplaces with the same safety obligations as in any other workplace.

"Being part of a remote community, the employer would have only had limited exposure to the requirements of WA's workplace safety laws, but this case is a stark reminder that the duty of care to provide and maintain a safe workplace exists in all locations.

"After this tragic incident, a tyre safety cage was purchased for the workshop, and Mindibungu has also said that the workshop will be closed until it can recruit appropriately qualified persons and complete a safety audit.

"Unfortunately, these measures come too late for the young man who lost his life."

Further information on safe work practices can be obtained by telephoning WorkSafe on 9327 8777 or on the website at www.worksafe.wa.gov.au.