25/07/2008 - 08:33

WorkSafe charges 8 companies

25/07/2008 - 08:33

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Fortescue Metals Group Ltd is among eight companies charged by WorkSafe WA over the death of two workers and serious injuries to others during a cyclone at a Pilbara construction camp last year.

Fortescue Metals Group Ltd is among eight companies charged by WorkSafe WA over the death of two workers and serious injuries to others during a cyclone at a Pilbara construction camp last year.

FMG along with its subsidiary The Pilbara Infrastructure Pty Ltd face a total of 18 charges, with the latter company facing charges of safety breaches that allegedly resulted in the death of Debra Till.

The charges follow a 16-month investigation where TPI has been charged with 12 counts of failing to provide a safe working environment and five counts of failing to maintain the premises on employer-provided accommodation.

Fortescue has been charged with failing to provide and maintain a safe working environment causing serious harm to a contractor.

Overall 49 charges were made against the companies which include Spotless P & F Pty Ltd, BGC Contracting Pty Ltd, Spunbrood Pty Ltd trading as NT Link and WorleyParsons Services Pty Ltd.

The charges carry a maximum fine of $400,000 each except for WorleyParsons which faces a fine of up to $200,000.

Cyclone George killed two workers and injured several others in March when 275km/h winds sent temporary accommodation buildings flying and flattened the area.

The camp, 100km south of Port Hedland, was part of FMG's $3 billion Pilbara mine and infrastructure development.

Two workers died on the Fortescue Metal Group's railway construction camp - one of them a kitchenhand and the other a construction worker.

Craig Allan Raabe, 42, of Gympie in Queensland, died in hospital two days after the cyclone. He was an employee of a contractor to Len Buckeridge's BGC Contracting.

BGC faces four charges of failing to provide and maintain a safe work environment in relation to the death, and injuries to three employees.

Ms Till, 47, was killed while working for the property and maintenance services company Spotless P & F Pty Ltd.

The company which constructed the accommodation units or "dongas", Spunbrood Pty Ltd, trading as NT Link, has refused to comment.

Spotless Services Australia Ltd, faces eight charges over alleged failure to ensure the dongas could withstand a cyclone.

Railway construction and maintenance services company Laing O'Rourke was also charged and would not comment.

FMG and Pilbara Infrastructure, civil construction company BGC and WorleyParsons have all said they will defend the charges against them.

It is understood Fortescue made confidential ex-gratia payments late last year to the families of two deceased.

A third person died in the cyclone.

Sydney man Desmond Baker, 74, suffered massive internal injuries when the storm struck his temporary hut at nearby Indi station.

WorkSafe says Mr Baker was not employed at the time and is not the subject of any of the charges.

September 10 has been set aside for a court hearing of the charges.

Below is the full WorkSafe announcement:

WorkSafe will prosecute eight companies in connection with two deaths and serious harm caused to seven persons during Cyclone George in March 2007.

The companies involved are:

Spotless P & F Pty Ltd
The Pilbara Infrastructure Pty Ltd
BGC Contracting Pty Ltd
Laing O'Rourke (BMC) Pty Ltd
Spunbrood Pty Ltd trading as NT Link
WorleyParsons Services Pty Ltd
Spotless Services Australia Limited
Fortescue Metals Group Limited.

The companies will face a total of 49 charges under the Occupational Safety and Health Act 1984.

The charges vary for each company, dependent upon their obligations under the Act, but in summary the charges relate to:

Failure to provide and maintain a safe working environment;

Failure to maintain premises which were employer-provided accommodation;

Constructing temporary structures and failing to ensure that the structures were able to withstand potential cyclones; and

Designing temporary structures and failing to ensure that the structures would be able to withstand potential cyclones.

WorkSafe WA Commissioner Nina Lyhne said today that the large number of charges brought against a number of entities demonstrated the breadth of occupational safety and health responsibilities.

"The finalisation of charges was an important step in an intensive process that had taken place over the past 16 months," Ms Lyhne said.

"The investigation into the tragic deaths during Cyclone George was a significant and complex one involving extensive WorkSafe resources.

"In the early stages WorkSafe worked closely with WA Police, and throughout the investigation, we have made information available to the public and other agencies with an interest in the outcome.

"This has included the issuing of two Safety Bulletins, reminders to local government authorities on WorkSafe's reporting requirements for building and construction projects and ongoing consultation with agencies responsible for emergency preparedness and response.

"It is now a matter for the courts to determine."

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