A company has acknowledged the potential impact of a workplace health and safety failings and told a magistrate that contracts, worth millions of dollars, would be jeopardised if it was convicted.
Barry Bros Specialised Services pleaded guilty of failing to provide and maintain a safe system of work before Melbourne Magistrate, Felicity Broughton. The company was charged with having unsafe systems of work after a high-pressure cleaning hose and restraining device failed during routine cleaning in the Burnley Tunnel. A nearby employee of another company received serious leg injuries in the incident.
Steven Pewtress, General Manager, Barry Bros, told the court that a conviction would affect their capacity to tender for public sector work.
WorkSafe Victoria argued that a conviction was warranted as the use of high-pressure hoses had inherent dangers and that having chosen to conduct such a business, Barry Bros were responsible for ensuring that work was conducted safely.
Barry Bros were not convicted, but were fined. Magistrate Broughton said the firm took outstanding steps to improve safety after the incident, had demonstrated remorse and been of good character since they began in 1958.
Barry Bros operate in Victoria, New South Wales, Queensland and South Australia and were contracted by another company to carry out high pressure pipe cleaning services to flush drainage pipes under the Burnley Tunnel in Melbourne. They engaged a third company, Total Gas Care, to use closed circuit television to check the drains after which Barry Bros’ employees would clean them. The CCTV operator was a deemed employee of Barry Bros.
A fitting, connecting a high pressure water line to a control valve, failed as did a device to restrain the high pressure water line during the water-jetting process. The water line whipped around in an uncontrolled way hitting the CCTV operator’s lower left leg causing serious injuries, including a 15cm wide open wound and a broken tibia. His other leg was also hurt.
If Barry Bros had complied with the Australian Standard, which requires an exclusion zone when operating high-pressure cleaning equipment and inducted the injured worker, the injury would not have happened.
According to John Merritt, Executive Director, WorkSafe Victoria, in tightening economic times, safety had to be a priority. Financial penalties imposed by the courts are only a small part of the financial impact that injuries and deaths create. Safety obligations are clear and have been in place for decades.
WorkSafe Victoria have produced a number of publications including Information on engaging a contractor and duties of contractors.