The District Court of NSW handed down its judgment in Workcover (Inspector Battye) v Patrick Container Ports Pty Ltd (17 February 2014), finding that the employer’s failure to document a risk assessment or provide formal training and supervision didn’t constitute a breach of the now repealed Occupational Health and Safety Act 2000, after one worker was killed and two others were injured. The incident occurred when the deceased worker removed an outer rim clamp on a tyre without fully deflating the tyre first, contrary to safe work requirements. As a result, the tyre exploded.
The District Court found that the deceased worker was an ‘experienced qualified mechanic’ and the task was not outside his usual duties or skills. He found that WorkCover’s contention that the deceased worker should have been supervised at all times was ‘impracticable’ and had no merit. The Court also found there was no causal nexus between the employer’s alleged failures and the deceased worker’s actions that caused the explosion. The worker had been trained in the dangers of changing the tyres, and was in an ‘intoxicated state of mind’ (a post mortem revealed that he was affected by methamphetamines at the time of the incident). Further, the Court held that where there was evidence that the employer had carried out a risk assessment and provided training and instructions, a failure to formally document steps taken to discharge its duties under the legislation did not constitute a breach.