A Sydney demolition company has been fined $120,000 over an incident in 2013 where a worker’s skull was pierced by steel bar that flew into the cabin of the excavator he was operating.

NMK Pty Ltd was found guilty in the District Court after being charged by SafeWork NSW with a breach of the Work Health and Safety Act for failing to instruct workers and failing to ensure that the front safety screen of the excavator was closed when in operation.

On Friday 16 August 2013, an 18 year old worker was operating the excavator as part of demolition and excavation work for a block of residential units being built at Tryon Rd, Lindfield. While filling the sifting bucket of the excavator with a load of concrete and steel reinforced bar, a steel bar flew into the cabin of the excavator, piercing the worker’s skull and penetrating approximately 10cm into his brain.

SafeWork NSW’s investigation found that, at the time of the incident, the glass front screen of the excavator was open and that site supervisor had observed the worker operating the excavator with the window open prior to the incident but failed to instruct him to close it.

The judge did not to accept NMK’s argument that the incident was a ‘freak accident’ but rather a case of negligence on the part of the site supervisor for failing to follow company policy and failing to operate the excavator according to its operating manual which required the window to be closed.

Executive Director of SafeWork NSW (formerly WorkCover NSW), Peter Dunphy said the simple act of closing a window is all it would have taken to prevent this incident which could have had tragic consequences.

“This incident highlights again that an effective safety system does not have to be expensive or complicated,” Mr Dunphy said.

“The risk of an exactor operator being struck by a flying object and the need to shut the front safety screen during excavation is widely known and understood within the demolition and excavation industry.

“Fortunately the worker did not suffer a significant brain injury as a result of the incident but the outcome could have been very different.

“We believe this decision sends a strong message to the NSW demolition and excavation industry about the need to implement and enforce effective safe work systems so that work health and safety risks are controlled.”

NMK Pty Ltd were found guilty of breaching sections 19(1) and 32 of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011. Legal proceedings by SafeWork NSW against the principal contractor, Project Corp Pty Ltd remain ongoing.

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