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January 2020

Failure to ensure workers are properly trained

Failure to ensure workers are properly trained

Facts

VWA v Vibro-Pile Pty Ltd (2014)

On 28 May 2011, an employee fell approximately 40 metres when the mast of a piling rig collapsed. The builder had engaged the company Frankipile to undertake piling work associated with building foundations at the site. Frankipile in turn engaged Vibro-Pile (an affiliated company) to operate the piling rig. The deceased was employed as a dogman by Frankipile.

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 that 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 a Frankipile employee was working at the top of the rig when the mast snapped, causing the employee to fall to the ground, along with a 20-metre section of the mast. The employee subsequently died.

Judgment

Vibro-Pile was convicted at trial of:

  • one count under section 21(2)(a) of the Victorian Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Act 2004 for failing to provide systems of work that were safe and without risks to health as far as reasonably practicable; and
  • one count under section 21(2)(e) of the OHS Act for failing to provide the information, instruction, training or supervision necessary to enable employees to perform work in a way that was safe and without health risks. Vibro-Pile was fined $100,000.

Lessons

You need to ensure that only properly trained and qualified workers perform certain activities, particularly if the activities are high-risk. You need to be vigilant to ensure that when workers raise concerns about their level of competency, they are not ignored.

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