L. Arthur fined $330,000 over port death

WorkSafe Victoria has sought to reinforce its message following fatality and resultant fine

June 26, 2013

WorkSafe Victoria has sought to reinforce its message following a port fatality three years ago and the resultant fine of a transport operator.

A P&O Automotive and General Stevedoring (POAGS) employee was crushed by a falling metal beam at West Melbourne’s docks in the incident.

Melbourne port and heavy lift transport firm L. Arthur was fined $330,000 in Melbourne’s County Court after pleading guilty to two charges under the OHS Act (2004) of failing to provide a safe workplace for people other than its employees, and that of its own employees, WorkSafe says.

"The enormity of the impact of a workplace death can never be underestimated," WorkSafe Regional Director Shane Gillard says.

"This case serves as a clear reminder to every employer and employee that safety must be their number one priority."

Describing the events of July 14, 2010, the safety body says two L. Arthur employees and two POAGS employees were using a gantry crane to unload a 27-tonne steel drum from a truck at the dock.

The gantry crane was made up of two separate lifting rams, which were used to lift a central three-tonne metal beam.

For safety reasons, the lifting rams had to be raised or lowered in unison to ensure the beam stayed level at all times.

The lifting rams were powered by diesel pump units connected by pressure hoses. The lifting rams would not extend or retract without the pressure hoses being connected.

To allow the truck to position the steel drum underneath the crane, the pressure hoses from the rams on one unit were disconnected to avoid being damaged by the reversing truck. Disconnecting the hoses was a normal part of the system of work.

But the hoses were not reconnected before the crane was positioned above the drum. As there was no hydraulic power to one of the lifting rams, it did not lower when the crane began operating. But the other lifting ram did.

As a result, the steel beam slipped and fell on POAGS employee Steven Piper, killing him. The other three workers narrowly avoided being struck.

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