Company fined after worker falls to his death

Incident highlights the need for thorough risk assessments
Date: Thursday, 28 January 2021

Alcoa of Australia Ltd was today fined $210,000 in the Perth Magistrates Court and ordered to pay $75,000 in costs after a contractor fell to his death at the company’s Kwinana Alumina Refinery in 2015.

The contract worker was part of a crew removing scaffolding from inside a bank of processing vessels or ‘digesters’ which were offline for maintenance and refurbishment work.

Having climbed up the digesters to where entry points were located, the contractor inadvertently entered a digester where workers had already removed the scaffolding. He entered the upper entry manhole backwards, apparently expecting to drop onto a scaffold work platform but instead fell around 12 metres.

There was no barrier or guard on the manhole to prevent inadvertent access and the digesters did not have markings to distinguish them from one another.

Mines Safety Director at the Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety Andrew Chaplyn said falls from height were one of the main hazards leading to fatalities and serious injuries in the mining industry.

“Mine operators must conduct detailed risk assessments of areas where workers could be exposed to fall hazards and they must take preventative measures,” he said.

Mr Chaplyn said the Alcoa incident highlights the need for mining operators to conduct thorough and ongoing risk assessments and to implement appropriate control measures from the hierarchy of control.

“Control measures remove or reduce the risk of injury or harm and include a series of steps ranging from the elimination, substitution and/or isolation of risks through to engineering and administrative controls.”

“Employers and workers should always ensure safe work procedures are available, followed and enforced.”