Construction company fined $500k over man’s death on Sydney work site

A construction company has been fined half a million dollars over the death of a man working on the Barangaroo Ferry Hub project in 2017.

Timothy Ross Macpherson, a 32-year-old rigger, died when an unrestrained two-tonne metal beam, known as a headstock, landed on him.

McConnell Dowell Constructors was found guilty of failing to comply with the health and safety act in a judge-alone trial last year.

NSW District Court Judge David Russell earlier this month fined the company $500,000 and ordered it to pay the prosecution’s costs.

He said there were steps that McConnell Dowell could have taken to prevent Mr Macpherson’s death, including compelling the subcontractor, Brady Marine to lay the headstocks down.

“There would have been no significant burden or cost involved in taking the appropriate measures,” Judge Russell said.

“The harm caused was extremely serious and tragic. Mr Macpherson lost his life.”

In victim impact statements heard by the court, Mr Macpherson’s mother Kay said she felt “empty, gutted and at a loss” in the days after his death and not a day goes by when she does not think about her son.

Mr Macpherson had a 14-month-old son at the time of his death and his wife was pregnant with their second child.

He never got to meet his daughter, Annabelle.

His father, Iain, has become an active workplace safety campaigner, stopping at building sites when he sees any slightly elevated risk.

“Tim’s memory demands judicious application of an appropriate punishment that will stand as a serious warning to any other employers, contractors, developers, entrepreneurs or equipment suppliers who might ever take the ‘she’ll be all right’ attitude … to workplace safety,” he told the court.

Judge Russell said the risk of the falling headstocks was forseeable and McConnell Dowell should have known about it.

“Having regard to the large number of crane operations taking place in the vicinity of the barge, there was a significant likelihood the headstocks might be tipped over if a crane or its load applied force to the headstocks when they were standing upright and unrestrained on the deck of the Maeve Anne,” he said.

The court heard the company previously had an impressive safety record and did not have any prior convictions in its 36 years in business.

After the incident, the company said construction was immediately suspended and it created a crisis management team.

The court heard counselling support was offered to Mr Macpherson’s family and a crowd funding website was set up, to which the company contributed $50,000.

Brady Marine & Civil was also prosecuted for the same incident and last year fined $450,000, a discounted sentence due to its guilty plea.

That company was subcontracted by McConnell Dowell to provide marine services and installation of piling works on the project.

Better Regulation Minister Kevin Anderson said the case sent a strong message about the need for safety in the construction industry.

“Every workplace death is one too many and has an irreversible impact on families, workmates, and the community at large,” Mr Anderson said.

“While the court noted the company had no prior convictions in NSW, it shows there’s just no room for sloppy behaviour or complacency when it comes to safety and companies must be vigilant each and every day.”

Source: The Sydney Morning Herald

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