NEED TO “ACT” SAFELY

By on July 3, 2003

Passenger vehicle takes 15 metre plunge in Quarry

The Department of Primary Industries has recently completed an investigation into a falling incident whereby a passenger car had driven over the edge of a bench at a quarry.  According to the significant incident report released by the Department, the vehicle somersaulted end over end, landed on blasted rock, rolled three times sideways and came to rest at the bottom of the slope after descending 15 metres. 

The male driver sustained only minor injuries and was able to climb out through the driver side window and walk away from the scene. 

The driver of the vehicle was a stonemason and had been using stone from the quarry for a number of years.  On the day of the accident he had complied with the site safety procedure but without notifying anyone proceeded to drive his passenger car up a steep track to the top of the quarry and over the edge of a bench that was not protected by a bund.   Fortunately for the driver, a recent blast provided a slope that reduced the impact of the fall. 

Under section 22 of the OH&S Act the Work Authority holder failed to ensure that the person was not exposed to risks.  This occurred through failing to provide adequately bunded benches and a adequate system that ensures quarry visitors are not exposed to unacceptable risks.  The stonemason too, had failed  to comply with the established procedure of consulting the Quarry Manager prior to working outside designated areas. 

Contractor Engulfed

A contractor had entered a product hopper with a shovel in an attempt to remove a build-up of crushed rock.  The crushed rock that was being used as a platform collapsed causing him to slide into the bin and become completely engulfed.  The man was freed by fellow workmates on the scene.

The findings of the investigation indicated that although the quarry operator had performed a risk assessment and developed a documented “Safe Operating Procedure” for the confined space, it was not backed up by adequate training, appropriate signage and appropriate harnesses were not available.  Further to this, training records were not available. 

The findings of this investigation highlight the need for identified areas of risk to be backed up with practical procedures, instruction, training and information to ensure that accidents are prevented.  It also demonstrates the importance of keeping and maintaining training records. 

Management  to Enforce Safety

One company is in liquidation and another received a $105,000 fine after management failed to supervise and monitor established safety procedures. 

One worker lost sight in one eye and sustained a fractured skull, fractured palate, loss of teeth, severe facial lacerations a lacerated thumb and elbow and some tendon damage after trying to fix machinery whilst it was still operating.  The company was found guilty of issuing only a “broad instruction” to not attempt repairs whilst the machine was running.   These instructions were not reinforced by management as it was not clear from day to day who was the supervisor.  The victim also reported that he had witnessed a manager attempt repairs in a manner similar to what he had done.  It is pointless to lay down a system of instruction if senior members operate in a manner inconsistent with the rules, or in an unsafe way. 

In the second accident, an employee was killed when he entered a designated “exclusion zone” and was crushed while trying to organise repairs for a conveyor.  Despite the signs and a written procedure, staff still continued to enter the exclusion zone.   The company received the hefty fine for failing to maintain safe systems of work and failing to provide adequate information, instruction and supervision to its employees.  The court also found that those in authority condoned the practice of entering the exclusion zone and that compliance with procedures was not adequately policed.   

Both these cases demonstrate the importance of management and employees working toward a safe workplace. 

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