Cement Australia fined after death due to safety standards

ONE of Gladstone's major employers has been fined $100,000 for failing to protect a contract worker who was crushed to death at a NSW concrete plant.

The NSW Industrial Relations Commission found a conveyor system at the Kandos plant operated by Cement Australia was "not fully guarded" when employee Colin Fuller was pinned between two electronic rams.

The court heard Mr Fuller had been working unsupervised on a broken sheer pin in one of the plant's stone tunnels when a co-worker lost radio contact with him on the night of September 13, 2009.

When the co-worker went to check on Mr Fuller, he found his body crushed at his chest and back, with his arm reaching up to a front bin.

Paramedics pronounced Mr Fuller dead at the scene.

An investigation revealed a hammer and a large piece of cement had been found near Mr Fuller's right hand and it was possible he was attempting to free a blockage in the conveyor equipment.

Cement Australia pleaded guilty to failing to comply with Australian Standard Safety of Machinery requirements.

During the sentencing hearings, a letter written by Mr Fuller's mother Colleen described the "dreadful sense of loss and grief" experienced by the family following his death.

Justice Anna Backman expressed her "deepest sympathy" to the family but said that in accordance with the law, the victim impact statement could be acknowledged but not taken into account for sentencing.

While the maximum penalty for the offence was $550,000, Justice Backman noted the "significant presence" Cement Australia had in Gladstone, where it donates more than $30,000 to community programs every year.

She said that given the prevalence of offences linked to unguarded machinery coming before the courts, general deterrence needed to be considered but found that as Cement Australia was not adversely recorded it was "entitled to a leniency normally extended to first-time offenders".

Facts

  • Cement Australia's Gladstone cement plant at Fisherman's Landing is Australia's largest
  • Produces more than 1.7 million tonnes of cement per annum, and 250,000 tonnes of lime
  • Fined $100,000 for death of contractor at its NSW plant
  • Judge spared company maximum penalty due to its contributions to Gladstone's community.


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