Company fined for Wundowie workplace incident that left a worker trapped under a 1000kg drum

Workplace incident: Sunchaser Enterprises Pty Ltd has been fined $69,500 over a workplace incident in Wundowie that left a worker with serious permanent injuries. Photo: Avon Valley Advocate.
Workplace incident: Sunchaser Enterprises Pty Ltd has been fined $69,500 over a workplace incident in Wundowie that left a worker with serious permanent injuries. Photo: Avon Valley Advocate.

A Gidgegannup company that supplies and installs underground services has been fined $69,500 over a workplace incident in Wundowie that left a worker with serious permanent injuries.

Sunchaser Enterprises Pty Ltd pleaded guilty to failing to provide and maintain a safe workplace and, by that failure, causing serious harm to an employee in the Northam Magistrates Court on Tuesday.

Sunchaser was was fined $45,000 for the offence, and an additional $2000 for permitting an employee to do construction work when he did hold a white card.

Sunchaser director Andrew Joseph Gorringe was fined $22,500 after the court found that the offence occurred because of the neglect of Mr Gorringe.

In February 2016, Sunchaser had been contracted to do trenching works and install supply services such as power and communication cables at a new housing estate in Wundowie.

On the morning of the incident, workers were preparing to lay the cable in a pre- prepared trench.

This involved a large cable drum weighing 1118kg being picked up by an excavator and brought to the side of the trench so the cable could be taken from it.

The cable drum had a rope tied to the end of the cable to prevent it from unwinding during transport.

The rope needed to be cut in order to access the cable.

The victim was employed as a labourer, and that morning he was working with two other labourers while Mr Gorringe operated the 20 tonne excavator.

Mr Gorringe lifted the cable drum and swung it over the services trench where two of the labourers were waiting to lay the cable.

He then noticed that the rope that secured the cable to the drum had not been cut.

The victim leaned under the cable drum to cut the rope, and the swivel that attached the drum to the excavator failed and the cable drum fell on the worker, pinning him to the ground.

He suffered multiple serious injuries to his chest, back and legs that have rendered him unable to return to manual labouring work.

The equipment Mr Gorringe used in the suspension was not rated for lifting, and Mr Gorringe did not hold the relevant High Risk Work Licence.

Mr Gorringe had suffered serious injuries as a result of a similar incident in 1998 when a cable drum fell on him.

WorkSafe WA commissioner Darren Kavanagh said the case was an example of a blatant failure to provide and maintain a safe workplace that had devastating consequences for a worker.

“It’s reasonable to assume that Mr Gorringe should have foreseen this hazard, especially since he had been involved in a similar incident,” Mr Kavanagh said.

“Mr Gorringe’s failure included allowing a number of employees to perform dogging work without a High Risk Work Licence, failing to ensure only appropriately rated swivels were used to lift the load, failing to require workers to sign a Safe Work Method Statement and failing to ensure a load was not suspended over a worker.

“The unfortunate victim of Mr Gorringe’s failures – who was only 30 years old at the time - now has to live and work for the rest of his life with the limitations his severe injuries have resulted in.

“This is also an opportune time to remind everyone that they can use the Licence and Registration Search service on WorkSafe’s website to check whether a worker has a white card or High Risk Work Licence.”

Magistrate Young commented that the incident involved a serious breach with an obvious and foreseeable risk of harm.

“The accused claims he wasn’t aware of the requirements in the regulations, however there is a positive obligation on any employer to familiarise themselves with the safety obligations that apply to their line of work,” Magistrate Young said.

“It was an obvious hazard, and people shouldn’t be working under a heavy load – it’s fairly fundamental.”