Two companies were fined a total of $1.5 million in the Supreme Court last week over the death of a worker who fell 40 metres when a piling rig collapsed at a Melbourne construction site in 2011.
A guilty verdict was found in 2015 against Frankipile Pty Ltd and Vibro-pile (Australia) Pty Ltd with both businesses convicted and fined a combined total of $450,000 in the Melbourne County Court. However, following an appeal from the Director of Public Prosecutions the Court of Appeal last week significantly increased the fine to $750,000 for each business.
The court found that the businesses had failed to provide safe systems of work, and failed to provide appropriate instruction, supervision and training.
The court heard on 28 May, 2011, Frankipile employee Sonny Swaanenbeck fell 40 metres when the mast of a Fundex F3500 Piling Rig collapsed. Mr Swaanenbeck, 30, suffered extensive injuries and died at the scene.
Mr Swaanenbeck was employed as a dogman by Frankipile, which was preparing foundations for a building at a construction site in Southbank. It employed affiliated company Vibro-pile to operate the piling rig, which was owned by Frankipile.
The court heard that a Vibro-pile employee who was given the job of preparing the rig for work was unfamiliar with its controls and had never installed or been trained in how to install the 1.8 metre leader extension which had to be fitted to the mast.
Despite reporting his concerns to his supervisor, work on preparing the rig continued. As a result, 10 of the 16 bolts needed to secure the leader extension to the rig were not fitted.
Later that day Mr Swaanenbeck was working at the top of the rig when the mast snapped. Mr Swaanenbeck fell to the ground, along with a 20 metre section of the mast.
WorkSafe Executive Director of Health and Safety, Marnie Williams, said construction was one of the most high-risk industries in Victoria and an ad hoc approach to procedures, training and supervision that puts the safety of workers at risk should never be tolerated.
“The constantly changing nature of construction work distinguishes it from other types of work,” Ms Williams said.
“Construction is a high risk industry and ensuring the appropriate procedures, induction, training and supervision are provided is a fundamental obligation for all employers. There is absolutely no excuse - workers should always receive that support and never be left to just ‘work things out.’
“Mr Swaanenbeck was a construction worker who put his trust – and his life – in the hands of people who failed to make safety a priority. His family, friends and workmates now have to live with the consequences of this tragedy for the rest of their lives.”
For more information on construction safety, visit worksafe.vic.gov.au
Public enquiries: Call the WorkSafe Advisory Service on 1800 136 089 between 8:30am and 5pm Monday to Friday, email firstname.lastname@example.org or write to Advisory Service, PO Box 4306, Melbourne, 3001.