Accidental death leads to $225,000 fine for engineering firm

Published 27 Jan 2017

Accidental deaths have a devastating impact on the deceased's loved ones, with many families suffering both an emotional and financial toll.

Sadly, according to Safe Work Australia figures, 178 Australians lost their lives in a workplace accident in 2016. In the first week of last year alone, seven people died performing their jobs.

However, it was a workplace fatality that occurred in 2014 that recently hit the headlines, as SafeWork NSW revealed a mechanical and engineering firm in the state was fined when an employee was crushed on-site.

Accidental death in NSW

A 30-year-old mechanic was working at PJL Pty Ltd's Cobar workshop when the load frame from a 20-tonne underground haul truck fell off its supports and landed on him.

Steel cylindrical stands and wooden blocks were used to prop up the load frame, but the wood split and the frame dropped onto the man. A District Court found the company guilty of breaching the Work Health and Safety Act (NSW), which resulted in a $225,000 fine.

Peter Dunphy, executive director of SafeWork NSW, claimed the organisation had various policies to prevent such accidents from occurring, but failed to follow its own guidance.

"The risk of working underneath a 20 tonne load was clearly foreseeable and a safe system of work, including a safe work method statement and work plan approved by the workshop foreman or supervisor should have been developed," he stated.

"Comprehensive instructions should have been developed and appropriate equipment, including properly engineered load bearing supports should have been used."

Workplace accidents in Australia

According to SafeWork NSW, more than 140,000 injuries have occurred across the state over the last three years due to poor use of equipment and machinery. Of these incidents, 5,800 people were left with permanent disabilities, while 121 died.

The news comes as WorkSafe Victoria said 2016 was a "horror year", with 26 people dying in accidents throughout the state - the most on record since 2009.

"As well as the devastation suffered by families and friends, a workplace fatality has an enormous impact on colleagues and, ultimately, the business itself as it is the employer who will face the courts should there be a serious incident," said WorkSafe Executive Director of Health and Safety Marnie Williams.

In the tragic event of an accidental death, loved ones can make a claim against the deceased's superannuation policy in order to receive benefits that can prove crucial in the months and years after the incident.

For more information on accidental death benefit claims, get in touch with Gerard Malouf & Partners Superannuation Lawyers.

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