Business charged after 2 deaths

Jan 10 2019

The families of trench victims Jack Brownlee and Charlie Howkins say charges laid against civil construction company Pipecon highlight the need for greater penalties in order to keep workers safe. 

 
WorkSafe on Wednesday charged the Ballarat-based business with two breaches of Section 21 of the Occupational Health and Safety Act relating to the deaths of the two men in a Delacombe trench collapse on March 21 last year.
 
The charges laid against the Civil Construction Company Pipecon are: 
 
failing to maintain battering or benching of the excavation and to use trench shields and manhole cages to protect the workers from the risk of engulfment and; 
failing to provide supervision to ensure its employees did not perform work in the trench without battering, benching, trench shields or manhole cages.
 
The charges carry 9000 penalty points each, which means the company could be fined almost $3 million if found guilty and given the maximum penalty on both counts.
 
Charlie Howkins, 34 and Jack Brownlee, 21 were killed in the collapse on March 21 last year while laying pipe at the Winterfield Estate housing development when the trench collapsed.
 
Charlie died immediately at the site, with Jack dying a day later in hospital.
 
The matter is listed for a filing hearing at the Ballarat Magistrates’ Court on February 4.
 
But the families of Mr Howkins and Mr Brownlee, while both choosing not to comment of the specifics of the charges laid, said the penalties available show why work safety laws needed to be changed.
 
Lana Cormie, the wife of Mr Howkins, who has campaigned alongside Dave and Janine Brownlee, the parents of Jack, said penalties should reflect society expectations.
 
“We strongly believe that significant penalties are required to hold companies accountable when they fail to meet their safety obligations,” Dr Cormie said. 
 
“Without significant penalties we will continue to see bosses failing to take safety seriously and more families will be left as devastated as ours are.”
 
Dr Cormie said an introduction of stronger laws would go some way to seeing bosses held to account.
 
“These incidents highlight the long overdue need for serious penalties including the introduction of industrial manslaughter laws in Victoria,” she said.
 
Janine Brownlee said there needed to be greater deterrents other than fines to bring about safer workplaces.  
 
“People need to come home. Everyone has a right to come home,” Mrs Brownlee said.
 
“It’s not about sending bosses to jail, we don’t want people to go to jail, we want safety and more change in the workplace. People need to be more accountable for their actions.”
 
 
Source: The Courier

Last changed: Jan 10 2019 at 10:27 AM

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