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November 2021

Company fined $360,000 for ignoring foreseeable fall risk

Company fined $360,000 for ignoring foreseeable fall risk

The Case

DPP v Crowley Excavation Pty Ltd (2021)

Crowley Excavation Pty Ltd (Crowley) is a pipeline construction company that provides a range of services, including the provision of civil construction activities.

On 16 August 2018, a 32-year-old worker was working on an excavator, placing and detaching chains from trench shields that were used to prevent the trench walls from collapsing while other workers were within the trench connecting and laying pipes. The worker fell from the top of a trench shield into a 6-metre trench. He suffered serious injuries and died at the scene.

At the time of the incident, Crowley was on notice of the fall risk from a previous conviction in 2012 in which it was fined $22,500 for a breach of section 23 of the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 (Vic).

The Verdict

Crowley failed to implement a safe system of work in circumstances where it was reasonably practicable to reduce the risk of falls by using a walkway. The walkway would have allowed a safe passage to anyone who was accessing the top of the shields so that they would not fall into the open trench. Despite being aware that falling into trenches was a well-known risk within the industry, Crowley’s safe work method statement did not prescribe a safe system for adequately controlling the risk during the installation of trench shields.

Crowley pleaded guilty to breaching section 26 of the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 (Vic) in failing to ensure, as far as reasonably practicable, that the workplace was safe and without risks to health. Crowley was convicted and ordered to pay a fine of $360,000 following a reduction for entering a guilty plea.

The Lessons

Companies must ensure that well-known and foreseeable risks are controlled through effectively maintaining safe systems of work.

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