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April 2021

Company is fined $600,000 after worker suffers fatal crush injury

Company is fined $600,000 after worker suffers fatal crush injury

The case

SafeWork NSW v Sky High Rigging Services Pty Ltd (2020)

Sky High Rigging Services Pty Limited (Sky High) operates across the construction industry installing, servicing and maintaining hoists.

On 19 March 2018, a Sky High employee was found trapped between the materials hoist and a steel mast tie. The employee was pronounced dead at the scene from the crush injuries he sustained to his chest and neck.

At the time of the fatality, the employee was inexperienced and had only been licensed for basic rigging for about 11 weeks.

The judgement

Sky High failed to train its workers and adopt a safe practice for manually handling the materials hoist. Instead, it allowed its workers to lean over the edge of a hoist while it was in motion when troubleshooting or investigating faults. The company safe work method statement (SWMS) identified the risk of crush injuries of the hands and fingers; however, failed to identity ‘risk of death’ as a potential risk despite the fact that it was common practice for Sky High workers to lean over the edge of the hoist when performing various tasks.

Sky High pleaded guilty to breaching sections 19 and 32 of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (NSW) (WHS Act) in failing to comply with its primary duty of care and exposing the worker to a risk of death or serious injury.

While the Sky High Director accepted that the company had breached the WHS Act, the Court considered that in the sentencing hearing he had attempted to blame someone else for contributing to those breaches. The Director’s attempt to apportion the responsibility did not cause the District Court of New South Wales to reduce the fine imposed on Sky High.

Sky High was convicted and ordered to pay a fine of $600,000, following a 25% reduction for entering a guilty plea. The company was also ordered to pay the prosecutor’s costs.

The lessons

You must ensure that safe procedures are implemented, monitored and maintained to the extent reasonably practicable. Special consideration should be given to supervising vulnerable or inexperienced workers who are undertaking potentially high-risk activities.

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