Scrap metal yard fined $80,000 over worker death

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A Picton scrap metal business has been fined $80,000 (plus $3000 in costs) over an unsafe work environment in which a worker died in 2011.

J & P Group Pty Ltd – trading as J & P Metals – pleaded guilty to failing to provide and maintain a safe working environment and was fined in the Bunbury Magistrates Court last week.

J & P Group operates a scrap yard at Copplestone Road, Paradise, near Picton, at which plant operators and oxy-cutters are required to cut large pieces of scrap metal into smaller pieces so they can be more easily handled, transported and exported.

The yard employed a number of Chinese nationals with varying levels of understanding of the English language.  The deceased worker spoke very little English.

In November 2011, the worker was given the task of oxy-cutting from an excavator a large bucket that stood above head height.   He was not given any instruction for the task, and was working alone without direct supervision.

At some time between 8.00am and 9.00am, the worker was crushed when an 800kg piece of the upper part of the bucket he was cutting broke away from the main structure and fell on him.

The position of the man’s body indicated that, immediately prior to the incident, he had been positioned in the likely fall path of the curved upper bucket piece.

When the worker commenced his job nine months earlier he was provided with a general induction, but it did not include any content specific to his tasks as an oxy-cutter.

He then received a few hours of formal training one morning, followed by three months working under the supervision of another relatively inexperienced Chinese oxy-cutter with very limited English.

During this time, he was shown how to assess the risk of falling pieces of metal, safe cutting, leaving “tags” and where to position himself when cutting overhead.

However, that was the only training the worker had received - he had no formal training or experience in oxy-cutting or metalwork generally before commencing this job.

He had been assessed for competency, but the assessment did not cover the cutting of items that stood above head height and so posed a risk of falling and causing fatal crush injuries.

WorkSafe WA Commissioner Lex McCulloch today described the incident as a very disappointing failure to provide and enforce safe work procedures.

“The tragic death of this worker came in the context of a very disappointing failure to provide and enforce safe work procedures and a lack of adequate training and supervision,” Mr McCulloch said.

“Although some safety documents were available at this workplace, there were no written safe work procedures for oxy-cutting oversize items, no individual job safety analyses were carried out and risk assessments were left to the oxy-cutters themselves.

“Subsequent to the death of this worker, the employer has reassessed the risks at the yard, and individual risk assessments, methodology, JSAs and detailed cut plans must now be undertaken for any cutting job where there is a risk of pieces falling.

“An additional supervisor has been employed to carry out risk assessments, compile JSAs and instruct workers in safe cutting procedures.  These are generally documented in both English and Chinese.

“The court found that practicable measures such as training, safe work procedures, supervision and clear communication could have been taken in this workplace prior to the sad death of this worker.

“It is crucial – especially in any workplace employing foreign workers - that training and procedures are communicated to workers, and supervision is provided to those workers in a language that is readily and clearly understood.

“I hope this case sends a message about providing safe systems of work to other employers, and I offer my sincere sympathy to the man’s family.”

Further information on oxy-cutting safety and general workplace safety can be obtained by telephoning WorkSafe on 1300 307877 or on the website at www.worksafe.wa.gov.au.


Media contact: Caroline De Vaney 9327 8744 or 0408 927563 (media enquiries only)
caroline.devaney@commerce.wa.gov.au
Follow @WorkSafeWA on Twitter

WorkSafe
Media release
04 Mar 2014

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