WorkSafe Victoria v PPK Demolition Pty Ltd (2016)
In March 2015, a demolition company called PPK Demolition was completing demolition work at a residence. A 22-year-old worker was using a skid steer loader – despite not holding formal operator qualifications – to collect debris from behind the property and carry it 15 metres along the driveway to a skip bin.
While the machine’s rated operating capacity was 748 kilograms, the worker loaded a 920-kilogram piece of concrete onto it. In addition, the worker was not wearing a seatbelt during the incident despite receiving instructions from his supervisor to do so.
However, his supervisor observed him operating the machine and believed that the worker was competent.
When the worker raised the bucket above the skip bin to empty it, the machine leant forward and ejected him from his seat. As the hydraulic arms of the bucket lowered, the worker’s right leg was crushed by it just above the knee. The worker’s leg was amputated in hospital.
The company acknowledged it had breached its duty as an employer by not providing safe work instruction to direct employees on how to estimate load size or safe loading of the skid steer loader. It also did not ensure employees were competent in assessing a load’s weight to make sure it complied with loading specifications. PPK Demolition was fined $45,000 without conviction.
This case highlights why it is important for employers to ensure that all persons on site understand the risks involved in operating heavy vehicles and machinery. While supervisors may believe that a worker is highly experienced, competent or diligent, this should not deter them from having regular discussions about safety.