Earthworks business fined $90,000 over worker injuries

Media Release | 21/02/2017

A Bathurst earthworks business has been fined $90,000 for failing to comply with safety standards that led to two workers being injured in January 2015.

One labourer was fully buried and another had his right leg trapped after the side walls of a trench in which they were working collapsed during excavation works.

SafeWork NSW charged Bustin’ Free Earthworks Pty Ltd with a breach of section 19(1)/32 of the Work Health and Safety Act (NSW), for exposing workers to the risk of serious injury or death as a result of being engulfed in a trench that was not properly secured from collapsing.

SafeWork alleged that Bustin’ Free Earthworks failed to obtain a geotechnical report or ensure appropriate shoring was completed before work commenced in the trench.

SafeWork also alleged the business failed to ensure that workers were sufficiently trained to remain within the protective shoring box at all times.

Bustin’ Free Earthworks Pty Ltd was found guilty in the District Court and fined $90,000.

Executive Director of SafeWork NSW, Peter Dunphy, said excavation work was dangerous and businesses must take precautions when excavating a trench, tunnel or shaft.

“Under work health and safety laws, businesses must manage the risks of workers being trapped in a collapse when excavating a trench,” Mr Dunphy said.

“When excavating a trench greater than 1.5 metres deep, you must also ensure all sides of the trench are supported by shoring, benching or battering.

“You should also get written advice from a geotechnical engineer that all sides of the trench are safe from collapse.

“It is important to ensure that all employees are properly trained and educated about the risks when excavating a trench.

“In this incident, the business failed to train and direct workers to remain within the shoring box and did not remove them from the trench when they stepped outside it.

“Fortunately no workers were permanently injured in this incident, but the outcome could have been very different.”

Following the incident, Bustin’ Free Earthworks Pty Ltd has committed to spend over $2 million to improve safety measures, including on additional staff training and to engage a safety consultant to review safety practices.

For information about planning evacuation work, controlling risks, using different evacuation methods and preventing ground collapse, or to access the Excavation Code of Practice from this website or contact SafeWork NSW on 13 10 50.

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