Electrical switchboard manufacturer fined $180,000 after workers seriously injured in factory falls

A Hazelmere manufacturer of electrical switchboards and switch rooms has been fined $180,000 by the Midland Magistrates Court after two workers were seriously injured when they fell from a scissor lift.

HVLV Pty Ltd (in liquidation) was found guilty of failing to provide and maintain a safe working environment in breach of the Occupational Safety and Health Act. The company was ordered to also pay costs of $784 when convicted on August 4, 2015.

In the incident which occurred on 25 February 2013, the two workers were on top of a scissor type elevated work platform while carrying out tests at a height of about ten metres. This testing involved dropping a test weight down a vertical tube onto a sample of cladding and determining the suitability of the cladding to withstand impacts and penetration from debris.

One of the injured employees had tied the 46 kilogram test weight to the handrails of the scissor lift and raised the lift in order to drop the weight down the tube. The other employee injured in the incident was ordered by a supervisor to stand on the opposite side of the platform to act as a counterbalance.

At the same time, a group of workers who were welding a steel frame in another section of the factory had activated the overhead travelling crane using a wireless remote control.  During this movement, the overhead crane collided with the platform and tipped it over.

One of the injured workers rode in the platform basket to the ground, while the other injured worker managed to grab the crane as it passed overhead and was left hanging from it for a few seconds, but then he too fell to the ground.

The worker who rode the lift to the ground suffered numerous fractures, including to his arm, shoulder and ribs, and a punctured lung. The other worker who fell after momentarily holding on to the crane also suffered multiple injuries, including dislocation of his arm and leg, and fractures to his arm, leg, foot, pelvis and lumbar spine.

After the incident, the company’s sole Director conceded in an interview with WorkSafe that “with hindsight” a Job Safety Analysis or some form of hazard assessment should have been done in these circumstances.

A WorkSafe investigation concluded that the hazard could have been controlled by restricting the use of the crane while the scissor lift was being used; active communication with all staff working in and around the platform; and isolating the area around the platform with bunting or a ground spotter.

“Although the company is in liquidation, it was considered important to prosecute the company and have a conviction recorded as a deterrent to others,” WorkSafe WA Acting Executive Director Ian Munns said.

“Other employers in the same or similar industries need to appreciate that if safety measures are not taken, they will be liable to prosecution and substantial penalties.”

In handing down the penalty, Magistrate Benn said the nature of the hazard was obvious and posed a serious risk of injury or death. He said the practices carried out on the day of the incident displayed a general lack of safety consciousness, including the fact that the test weight was being tied to the platform’s handrail which was against the manufacturer’s instructions.

The Magistrate said that there were cost-effective measures that could have been put in place to prevent the hazard such as proper training, communication and risk assessment.

Further information on workplace safety can be obtained by phoning WorkSafe on 1300 307 877 or at www.worksafe.wa.gov.au.

Media contact: Alan Hynd 6552 9248 or 0429 078 791 (media enquiries only)

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Media release
05 Aug 2015

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