On 30 August 2010, WorkSafe Victoria released a media statement about a case in a Magistrates’ Court concerning the death of a worker. Nothing new in that but in this case first aid gains a prominence that is rarely seen because in this case adequate first aid was not provided. The uniqueness of the case justifies reproducing the media release in full:
“A Melbourne magistrate has described the failure of a Cheltenham company to seek first aid for a worker who hit his head and later died as ‘outrageous’.
Metal products manufacturer Pressfast Industries Pty Ltd was convicted and fined last week after a 2008 incident where a worker fell over and hit his head on concrete after being struck by a forklift.
The 60 year-old man was later found unconscious at work and died in hospital two days later.
“There was no qualified first aider on site, and the company failed to call an ambulance or seek first aid for the worker,” WorkSafe Victoria’s Strategic Programs Director Trevor Martin said. “The only staff member with first aid training was certified in 1984, and wasn’t alerted until it was too late,” he said.
In handing down his sentence, Magistrate Andrew Capell referred to the company’s decision not to seek help from the first aider, despite the expired certificate, as ‘outrageous’.
Following the incident, WorkSafe issued charges against Pressfast under the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004.
Pressfast was convicted of two charges and fined a total of $163,500.
The court agreed for the third charge to be dealt with through an Adverse Publicity Order – requiring Pressfast to pay for a series of newspaper advertisements publicising the situation and health and safety tips from WorkSafe.
“This incident really brings home the importance of workplaces having a trained first aider on site at all times,” Mr Martin said. “In this case, Pressfast didn’t have a plan in place for dealing with first aid situations. Requiring Pressfast to publicise this through newspaper advertisements will alert other companies to make sure first aid is a priority in their workplace.
“Employees need to be given information and instruction, such as the location of kits, the names of officers and procedures to be followed when first aid is required. If in doubt that the situation qualifies as an emergency, always call triple zero. The people who take your call are trained to help you,” Mr Martin said.
Pressfast director Gunther Mayr was also fined $20,000 without conviction, for failing to provide and maintain a safe working environment for employees.”
The media release was sent through just before I addressed a group of accountants on OHS as part of their professional development program. It allowed me to illustrate a vital part of any safety management system – First Aid, what is required when the safety system fails. First Aid is a neglected element of OHS for many businesses – a first aid kit and an emergency phone number is all many have, if that.
Many small businesses have no emergency first aid and yet, as I said to the small business people this evening, a first aid kit does not resuscitate, one needs a trained first aider.
In the case mentioned above, it is important to note that the magistrate’s comment was concerning the slowness in calling on the first aider, even when the skills had “expired”. To do nothing seems to be more serious than doing something and failing.
Additional information on the case may be available through local newspapers but, as mentioned before in SafetyAtWorkBlog, no court records are readily available from the Magistrate Courts. This case is another example of how access to the findings of magistrates would provide a clearer understanding of the OHS needs and shortcomings of small business.