$20,000 Fine After Workplace Injuries

The Age

Saturday October 9, 1999

STEVE BUTCHER

A Melbourne company was fined $20,000 yesterday after one apprentice received an electric shock and another was burnt in separate workplace incidents.

A court heard that the brakes and clutch manufacturer, PBR Automotive Pty Ltd, had been under pressure to meet a production deadline in the weeks before a teenage apprentice was burnt.

The Melbourne Magistrates Court was told the apprentice electrician, Mr Jesse Dwyer, 19, was knocked off a ladder and burnt on his arms and face when a tank containing paint primer exploded during welding on 14 February 1997.

Mr Max Costello, prosecuting, said the primer's five chemicals made a corrosive and explosive substance and after concerns raised by the sub-contractor service engineer, a lid was put on the tank before welding.

He said Mr Dwyer, a sub-contractor employee, stood on a ladder holding a fire extinguisher, but when welding sparks caused an explosion, he was knocked over and injured.

An investigation showed that a ``hot work permit system" required workers to study a checklist of precautions, and while PBR had such a system, its project engineer was unaware of its existence, he said.

Four months later, Mr Costello said, a second sub-contract apprentice, Mr Richard Cowley, 22, was repairing an electric motor on a furnace, but had not signed a work request form and not removed the service request ticket.

When another worker checked the request book for any jobs, he found the unsigned form and assumed Mr Cowley's job was outstanding.

The second worker, unable to see Mr Cowley and finding no danger tag on the closed circuit breaker, re-set it, causing Mr Cowley to receive an electric shock and fall two metres.

Mr Ross Ray, QC, defending, said Mr Dwyer spent a week off work, while Mr Cowley returned the next day.

Mr Ray said the company had had significant safety procedures in place, but they had not been enough. After the incidents, PBR re-educated its 1000 staff and revised structures for apprentices.

PBR pleaded guilty to two charges of failing to provide adequate information, instruction, training and supervision and one charge of failing to provide or maintain safe plant and systems of work.

© 1999 The Age

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