Transport company falls afoul of WorkSafe

Victorian transport company fined by WorkSafe.

A Victorian transport company has been forced to payout $75,000 after sentencing in the Melbourne Magistrates Court.

Malina Enterprises pleaded guilty to a single charge of failing to ensure plant exposed to an electrical hazard was not used in a manner that was likely to trigger such hazards.

The court heard that in April 2021 the injured worker was tasked with delivering prefabricated roof trusses to the work site in a truck that had a vehicle-mounted crane, which was operated via lever controls on the side of the truck.

On arrival the worker, who was unaccompanied and had not prepared a Safe Work Method Statement, positioned the vehicle in a ‘No Go Zone’ of overhead power lines.

While he was operating the crane without a spotter, the jib of the crane hit the 22kV power lines, throwing him to the ground.

The seriously injured worker was taken to hospital and placed in an induced coma. He continues to suffer ongoing effects from his injuries.

The court heard Malina Enterprises had previously made deliveries to the work site but the injured worker had not been told where to park the truck in order to unload safely.

WorkSafe Executive Director of Health and Safety Narelle Beer said the incident could have been avoided if the worker was given clear instructions about making deliveries safely to the site.

“This incident could so easily have cost this worker his life and is a stark reminder that employers, large and small, must ensure they are doing everything possible to reduce the risk of workers being injured,” said Beer.

“Lack of proper safety planning, training, communication and the absence of a Safe Work Method Statements for high-risk work are known to place workers at risk of serious injury or death,” she said.

The company was also ordered to pay costs of $6,731.

To avoid contact with power lines, WorkSafe Victoria recommends employers and contractors using trucks and other mobile plant should:

  • Identify all power lines on site and at site entrance or exit points.
  • Comply with the ‘No Go Zone’ rules and spotter requirements when operating mobile plant around power lines.
  • Monitor weather conditions closely – power lines can sag in extreme heat and sway in strong winds.
  • Be aware that power lines are more difficult to see at dawn and dusk.
  • Designate travel paths, loading and unloading areas well away from power lines.
  • Install warning signs or other visual indicators on each side of the power line to warn operators and drivers.
  • Consider the type and height of heavy vehicles, plant and machinery and if it can safely operate near the power lines.
  • Induct drivers and operators in the risks of power lines on site, and the controls in place to prevent hitting the power lines.
  • If routinely working near power lines consider engineering controls such as presence sensing systems that can detect power lines and interlock plant movements.
  • Consult with workers on safe systems of work for operating near power lines.

More than 120 employers were fined for safety breaches in 2022.

Fourteen of those companies were hit with six-figure penalties for breaching the Occupational Health and Safety Act, with the total of all fines imposed by the courts $5,588,750.

“Training workers in the safe operation of equipment, using a passive fall prevention device when working at heights, ensuring machines are appropriately guarded and maintained, and erecting physical barriers to separate pedestrians from mobile plant are all proven ways to reduce workplace injuries and deaths,” said Beer.

Glen Cook is an electricity safety specialist with Energy Queensland. Read about his mission to ensure people in the transport industry are aware of the risks associated with operating in the vicinity of high voltage power lines.

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