Bradken Ipswich Operations.
Bradken Ipswich Operations.

Manufacturing company found at fault in workplace accident

BRADKEN Resources has admitted to an offence relating to an accident at the company's Ipswich factory that left an electrician with serious head injuries.

The 26-year-old electrician was injured three years ago by a section of the furnace soon after it discharged molten metal at the Karrabin steel fabrication facility.

Bradken executive general manager for mobile mining plant, Bradley Ward, went before Ipswich Magistrates Court and pleaded guilty on behalf of the company to one count of failing to comply with duty under the Work Health and Safety Act (category 2) at Karrabin on July 21, 2016.

Workplace Health and Safety Prosecutor Lisa McConnell said the electrician had been some distance away on an upper deck observing a furnace.

She said there were no eye witnesses to the incident but the electrician entered onto the work floor at the end of the pour. There was no explanation provided as to why he did.

He was found unconscious beneath furnace number five after it had rotated, making contact with his head and upper body.

The court heard he received significant injuries.

The electrician was admitted to intensive care and spent the next three weeks in hospital. The court heard he was off work for four months.

Ms McConnell said the worker had no recollection of the accident. He remains employed by Bradken.

Magistrate Jason Schubert referred to a court document which stated that the electrician saw a splash of molten metal while he was on the upper deck.

Ms McConnell said the man did observe something to pique his interest, but beyond that it was not clear what had occurred.

Furnace five had only been commissioned four months prior to the accident and the court was told it weighed one tonne when empty and could hold 350kg of molten metal.

The furnace apparently rotated after a loss of hydraulic fluid from a damaged hose, the court heard.

Ms McConnell said examination of the equipment found there was insufficient shielding of the hoses to avoid degradation if molten metal fell onto them, although some black webbing had been used.

The prosecution case was that Bradken knew, or ought to have known, of the issue with the hydraulic lines as there had been previous issues and lines needing replacement.

She said there had been no preventative maintenance carried out on the hydraulic lines since installation.

"It was a foreseeable incident," she said.

Ms McConnell said Bradken had previous convictions in Queensland for work health and safety matters.

Bradken's defence barrister John Bremhorst said the company still employed the electrician and at the time made genuine attempts to assist him.

Mr Bremhorst said the electrician had received some informal training about the furnace support pole and was aware of the safety system to minimise the risk of the furnace rotating down.

He said the electrician should have filled out forms to obtain a permit before entering the site. Mr Bremhorst said there was no evidence of this paperwork being filled out.

Mr Bremhorst said there had been a safety system in place but it was not employed as it should have been.

He outlined extensive work carried out to improve safety systems - at a cost of $385,000 - to upgrade the furnace.

"There has been a genuine consideration in ensuring risks are minimised at its facilities," he said.

Mr Schubert reserved his decision to determine the size of financial penalty.