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January 2020

$100,000 penalty for failing to undertake risk assessment

Comcare v John Holland Pty Ltd (2015)

Facts

In October 2011, John Holland Pty Ltd (John Holland) commenced construction of the C3 Cross Passage Tunnel on the Airport Link Tunnel Project in Brisbane.

In late October 2011, John Holland manufactured a metal bridge, which was to be used to pour concrete in the C3 Cross Passage Tunnel. The metal bridge structure had to be moved from one location to another to facilitate the concrete pouring.

On 1 December 2011, while the workplace was under the control of John Holland, Mr Hogg, a worker, was struck in the head by the metal bridge when it was dislodged from its holding structure during a move, causing him to suffer head lacerations.

Judgment

The Federal Court of Australia held that John Holland had breached section 16 of the Occupational Health and Safety Act 1991 (Cth) by not taking all reasonably practicable steps to protect the health and safety of workers. In particular, the Court found that John Holland had failed to:

maintain a working environment that was without risk to workers’ health and safety by:

amending the relevant job safety and environmental analysis for the use and removal of the bridge; and

completing a revised formal risk assessment in relation to the bridge; and

provide its workers with the information, instruction, training and supervision necessary to enable them to safely use or remove the bridge, e.g. by having a specific meeting regarding the use and removal of the metal bridge.

The Federal Court of Australia ordered John Holland to pay a penalty of $100,000.

Lessons

Ensure that you undertake a risk assessment of all tasks that pose a significant risk to your workers and, based on that assessment, develop a safe system of work. Ensure that workers are trained in any system of work that has been developed to eliminate risks.

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