Company failed to provide safety

A PERTH judge has overturned a decision to clear a construction company of failing to maintain a safe workplace when a severe cyclone slammed into a West Australian rail camp in March, 2007.

Craig Allan Raabe, 42, of Gympie, an employee of BGC Contracting, died along with Perth mother-of-two Debra Till, a kitchenhand with maintenance services company Spotless P&F Pty Ltd.

In October last year a magistrate cleared Laing O’Rourke for failing to provide a safe working environment and to train its employees against hazards.

In acquitting the company in 2009, Magistrate Peter Malone said Laing O’Rourke had provided dongas that were an “appropriate refuge” during a cyclone.

Mr Malone said while the company hadn’t provided an evacuation plan in its cyclone training, it did not expose its employees to a hazard.

On Monday, after an appeal in the WA Supreme Court by WorkSafe, Justice Michael Murray convicted Laing O’Rourke on two charges of failing to provide and maintain a safe working environment.

Justice Murray found that Laing O’Rourke failed to provide adequate safety procedures to be followed during a cyclone for both its employees and employees of the contracting company.

Laing O’Rourke was contracted by Pilbara Infrastructure, a wholly owned subsidiary of Fortescue Metals Group, to build bridges on a rail line.

WorkSafe WA Commissioner Nina Lyhne said the successful appeal sent a strong message to all employers that workplace health and safety should be given high priority.

“It also underlines the fact that the responsibility for providing and maintaining a safe environment may extend to the employees of a contractor,” she said in a statement.

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