Earthworks firm fined $90,000 for work health and safety failings

Date: Feb 14, 2017

An earthworks firm has received a $90,000 fine after SafeWork NSW took the company to District Court for work health and safety failings during an excavation project.

The case arose after a trench collapsed on two workers while the organisation was installing sewer lines for Bathurst Regional Council as part of a residential development plan.

Both employees experienced serious injuries, with one sustaining several fractured ribs and a punctured lung, while the other suffered a dislocated shoulder and injuries to his right leg.

Two shoring boxes were being used at one part of the trench, with the remainder of the tunnel unsupported. The workers would lay pipe from within these boxes, before climbing out of the trench and moving the boxes along and continuing the job.

How did the injuries occur?

A laser was being used to show the workers where they needed to lay sewer pipes, but the device was located 25 metres outside the shoring boxes.

Some dirt fell on the laser during the excavation, and one of the employees, who was also the on-site manager for the project, exited the shoring box to investigate the problem.

His colleague, a self-employed labourer who was sub-contracted for the work, followed him along the trench. Both began digging up soil in an attempt to find the laser.

The on-site manager allegedly said: “This is too dangerous. We need to go.” However, the trench collapsed on the pair before they could escape to a safe location.

The judge fined the company $120,000 for the incident, which breached health and safety regulations, although a 25 per cent reduction for an early guilty plea brought the final penalty to $90,000.

On-site accidents

While this was a criminal case for work health and safety breaches, it is common for people who are injured in similar circumstances to pursue public liability compensation if they feel negligence was a factor.

The Civil Liability Act 2002 (NSW) outlines the conditions under which organisations or individuals can be found liable and must pay damages.

Plaintiffs must typically prove that the defendant owed them a duty of care and that this obligation was breached. However, building a convincing case requires the input of experienced public liability lawyers.

If you have suffered serious injuries due to an accident, you may be entitled to claim compensation under public liability laws. Please contact Gerard Malouf & Partners Compensation, Medical Negligence & Will Dispute Lawyers for more information.

Call us now on 1800 004 878 to book a free appointment with one of my compensation experts, or email your enquiry.