A Queensland Crane Operator was recently prosecuted over the death of a fellow worker whilst operating a mobile crane.
The Incident Details
The defendant Robert Poida held a duty under s.28 of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 being a worker employed as a crane operator at a workplace which carried out sandblasting and application of protective coatings to various items of steel product.
Poida was operating an 8 tonne mobile yard crane on 23 November 2015 within his employer’s workplace when he ran over and killed a pedestrian worker. The defendant was load-shifting a large steel pipe (13.3 meters in length and weighing 2.5 tonne) with the crane. He was assisted in this task by the worker. Poida was a supervisor at the workplace and had requested one of the staff to assist him by slinging the load and then walking alongside to steady it as the crane travelled to the lay-down area. A person carrying out these activities is required to hold a dogman license. Poida should not have asked the worker to carry out these tasks as he was not licensed. In steadying the load Poida permitted the worker to hold the end of the pipe and to walk in the vicinity of the crane’s left front wheel where he was struck and run over.
The defendant should have used a licensed dogman who should have steadied the load by attaching a tagline (available within the workplace and the defendant had participated in the development and was trained in his employer’s Safe Work Method Statement for load- shifting which required one to be used) and/or used a third-party spotter to ensure the pedestrian worker maintained a safe distance from the crane.
On 22 June 2018, Robert Poida pleaded guilty in the Ipswich Magistrates Court to breaching s.32 of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011, having failed to meet his work health and safety duties and was sentenced.
Magistrate David Shepherd fined the defendant $15,000 and ordered professional and court costs totalling $1,092.55.
In reaching a decision, the Magistrate accepted the risk to the pedestrian worker and that it seemed the defendant, who was an experienced crane operator, had become too familiar with his crane duties and familiarity had a part to play in the breach, that is, permitting the worker to be in close proximity to the crane’s wheel. His Honour observed that the defendant had a number of responsibilities with regard to the work activity and that it was his decision not to use the tag-line. His Honour accepted that one of the objects of the Act was to ensure workers were afforded the highest levels of protection when at work. His Honour stated that the nature of the offending was serious and that deterrence was a primary consideration to ensure workers operated large items of plant safely within workplaces.
Magistrate Shepherd accepted that the crane defects (prosecuted separately) were not causative of the fatal incident, it occurred due to the inadequate work method.
In deciding penalty his Honour took in to account the principles under the Penalties and Sentences Act, that the defendant had no previous conviction for any work health and safety breach and that he had entered an early plea of guilty. His Honour also took in to account the character references tendered along with medical reports relating to the defendant. His Honour recorded a conviction due to the defendant’s serious breach of the Act which resulted in a workers death noting that the circumstances of the breach displaced the lack of prior history, early plea and the good references tendered.