SA business and owners fined following severe injuries to young worker

A steel fabrication business and its two directors have been fined a total of $200,000 after a young worker sustained serious injuries.

An investigation by SafeWork SA revealed that the company and its owners breached work health and safety regulations by failing to provide a safe work environment.

In September 2020, a 16-year-old apprentice was severely injured when heavy sheets of steel fell from a storage rack. The incident occurred while the apprentice was assisting with unloading a delivery of steel sheets. The movement of the steel caused the storage rack posts to snap, resulting in the steel falling uncontrollably and pinning the worker against the wall of the workshop. The accident left the young worker with a broken femur and soft tissue injuries.

The investigation found that no risk assessment or hazard identification had been conducted for the task, and there were no procedures in place for unloading steel into storage racks. Additionally, there was no evidence of inspection or maintenance of the storage rack, and its safe working load was unknown.

The company was charged with failing to comply with work health and safety duties and failing to ensure a safe system of work, thereby exposing employees to serious injury risks.

The business owners were also charged with failing to comply with their obligations as directors and not exercising due diligence to ensure compliance with health and safety duties.

The business and the directors pleaded guilty in the South Australian Employment Tribunal (SAET) for breaches of the Work Health and Safety Act 2012. The SAET convicted the company and imposed a fine of $134,000 (after a discount for an early guilty plea), plus legal fees. The owners were each fined $33,000 (after a discount for early guilty pleas), plus legal fees.