Worker’s fatal injuries result of training failure

Date: Jul 21, 2011

The NSW industrial court has ordered a company and its director to pay WorkCover's legal fees and fined them a combined amount of $137,500 after the firm failed to apply critical safety measures that may have saved a mans life.

Lee Tapping was an employee of Suncoast Formwork – a company contracted to provide structural improvements in the Grafton Shopping World complex.

On April 3 2008, Mr Tapping was removing concrete moulds used in the construction of the car park when one of the moulds fell over and struck him in the head and body.

The moulds were 3.6 metres high and weighed more than 200kg each. They were to be laid down and filled with concrete to produce the columns that supported the car park roof.

Injuries suffered by Mr Tapping included severe fractures to his ribs, spine and the base of his skull and he was taken to the nearby Grafton Base Hospital.

From there it was discovered that Mr Tipping was also suffering from internal injuries including a damaged spinal cord, a lacerated lung and swelling on the brain.

His wounds were so severe that he was subsequently air-transferred to the Royal Prince Albert Hospital, where he died on April 4 2008.

The court found that both Suncoast and its director Garry Watt had not provided Mr Tapping and his co-workers with the appropriate training, instruction or supervision to be able to handle the concrete moulds in a safe manner.

As a result, Mr Tapping and his colleagues were approaching their tasks in a such a way that they contributed to his death.

Suncoast Formwork was fined $125,000, its director Garry Watt was ordered to pay $12,500 and the court ordered that WorkCover's legal costs be covered.

The family of Mr Tipping lobbied the NSW government over the incident and were granted compensation.

John Watson – WorkCover NSW’s general manager – said that the accident was both foreseeable and preventable.

"It is critically important that all people involved in the work are provided with appropriate training and instruction," he said.

“Unfortunately, these precautions were not followed in this instance and a man is now dead.”

People who have experienced a workplace injury are urged to speak with a compensation lawyer as soon as possible.

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