NSW local council handed six-figure fine over fatal work incident

Incident was 'foreseeable' and preventable, says court

NSW local council handed six-figure fine over fatal work incident

A New South Wales district court has recently slapped Camden Council with a $750,000 fine after an incident involving the installation of an irrigation pipe caused the death of a worker in 2018.

The worker was a male volunteer who suffered a fatal injury when the pipe was being towed. According to records, the incident occurred when “untrained volunteers” tried to move the pipe with a tractor at the Camden Bicentennial Equestrian Park in 2018.

SafeWork NSW investigated the council and found it breached the Work Health and Safety Act 2011. The council pleaded guilty before the court.

The court found that the “the risk” of the fatal injury was “foreseeable” but the council “failed to implement safety systems or conduct a risk assessment for the project.” The court also found that the volunteer was “not qualified or trained to perform the work” and the assigned supervisor “had no qualifications in irrigation work or use of heavy plant.”

In a media release, NSW SafeWork executive director of investigations and enforcement Rick Bultitude said that “volunteers” are still considered workers under Work Health Safety (WHS) legislation, even though they perform essential tasks throughout the community without pay or reward.

“Organisations who have workers have work, health and safety duties and obligations not just to paid staff, but also for any volunteers they engage,” Bultitude said.

“The person conducting a business is required to ensure an adequate risk assessment is conducted for work undertaken, and ensure appropriate information and instruction is provided to any volunteers.”

"And volunteers should never be used to undertake work for which they are either unqualified or untrained to perform,” Bultitude added.

Camden Council has yet to appeal the court’s decision.   

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