Visy Pulp and Paper and two commissioned companies fined total AU$355,000 after man falls from scaffolding at its pulp, paper mill in Tamut, Australia

SYNDEY , December 8, 2011 (press release) – Three companies have been fined a total of $355,000 and ordered to pay the legal costs of WorkCover NSW after a man was severely injured when he fell approximately 14 metres from scaffolding at a Tumut paper mill in southern NSW.

Visy Pulp and Paper Pty Ltd (Visy) is the owner of the Tumut pulp and paper mill, which produces recycled paper for the packaging and building industries.

Visy engaged Allied Industrial Engineering Limited (AIE), a company that supplies specialised engineering services to wood and paper processing plants, to carry out annual maintenance work at the Tumut mill.

The maintenance work included upgrading a 60-metre-high, 5-metre-wide ‘digester’ vessel used to break down wood chips into pulp.

Visy also engaged Bell Scaffolding Pty Ltd (Bell) to construct the specialised scaffolding inside the digester needed to carry out this maintenance.

On 5 July 2008, 21-year-old worker was working inside the digester on the internal scaffolding when he fell through a 430 millimetre gap between the scaffolding and the digester wall.

The worker fell approximately 14 metres, striking pieces of the lower scaffolding before landing on the floor of the digester and sustaining significant injuries.

A WorkCover investigation found the companies had failed to make sure the scaffolding was properly installed before allowing employees to work at heights.

Bell had failed in numerous ways to provide safe and secure scaffolding to carry out the maintenance.

Visy and AIE should not have accepted the verbal assurances of Bell that the scaffold was complete and safe for use, but rather should have checked the status and condition of the scaffolding for themselves.

All companies were charged with breaches of the Occupational Health & Safety Act 2000 - Visy pleaded guilty and was fined $145,000; Bell pleaded guilty and was fined $120,000; and AIE pleaded guilty and was fined $90,000.

WorkCover NSW General Manager of Work Health and Safety Division John Watson said the employee was lucky to survive such a serious fall.

“Steps to make sure workers are safe while working from heights are simple and well known. They should have been followed,” Mr Watson said. “These companies should have done a full and proper inspection of the scaffolding and ensured that nobody performed work on it until the gaps were fixed.

“Lots of large-scale projects require more than one company to carry out the work. Without proper inspection of equipment and awareness of serious risks and their appropriate controls, employees will always be at risk,” Mr Watson said.

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