A Sydney construction company has been fined $90,000 over an incident in 2013 where an 18 year old worker’s skull was pierced by a steel reo bar that flew into the cabin of the excavator he was operating.

On Friday 16 August 2013, the 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 85mm into his skull.

Principal contractor ProjectCorp Pty Ltd had sub-contracted NMK Pty Ltd to perform the excavation and demolition works at the site.

SafeWork NSW’s investigation found that, at the time of the incident, the glass front screen of the excavator was open and that NMK’s 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.

ProjectCorp pleaded guilty to the charge alleged by SafeWork NSW under sections 19 and 32 of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 for failing to ensure that the excavator was operated by sub-contractors in accordance with the operator’s manual, in particular, that the front safety screen of the excavator was closed when in operation.

Executive Director of SafeWork NSW, Peter Dunphy said this incident could have been fatal and would have been easily prevented by simply closing the excavator’s window.

“Effective safety systems do not have to be expensive or complicated,” Mr Dunphy said.

“The risk of an excavator operator being struck by a flying object during excavation is widely known and understood within the demolition and excavation industry.

“Had the principal contractor and sub-contractor’s Site Supervisor ensured the excavator was operated in accordance with the operating manual, and directed the operator to shut the front safety screen, the incident would not have occurred.

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

“This conviction sends a strong message to the NSW demolition and excavation industry of the need to implement and enforce effective safe work systems.”

In September 2015 co-defendant NMK Pty Ltd was found guilty of breaching sections 19(1) and 32 of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 and fined $120,000 in relation to the same incident. This judgement brings total fines for the incident to $210,000.

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