A crane driver charged over the 2016 workplace death of his colleague at the University of Canberra Hospital construction site has admitted his reckless actions risked the man's life.
Michael Watts on Wednesday pleaded guilty to one charge of reckless conduct exposing people to serious injury or death, which is a category one offence under the Work Health Safety Act 2011.
Herman Holtz, 62, died when the mobile crane Watts was driving rolled and hit him at the Bruce construction site on August 4, 2016. The crane rolled while moving an 11-tonne generator.
The ACT Supreme Court on Wednesday heard the crane was operating "in excess of its rated capacity" when Watts used it to move the generator. The move was also "in the absence of sufficient planning; at night with reduced lighting and visibility; and, on unsuitable and dangerous terrain".
Watts was originally charged with manslaughter over the incident. The charge was abandoned in place of the work health and safety offence, which carries a maximum penalty of up to five years imprisonment and a $300,000 fine, or both.
Several other parties have also been charged. RAR Cranes, construction giant Multiplex Constructions, Benjamin De Bono, Andrew Drummond, John Flecker, Munro Jones, Paul Kelly, and Jeffrey Rumble have all pleaded not guilty to breaches of workplace safety.
In a statement issued on Monday, ACT Work Safety Commissioner Greg Jones said Watts' prosecution sent a strong message to the construction industry that safety must be "the number one priority".
"The consequences and penalties for failing to meet safety obligations and responsibilities are very substantial," Mr Jones said.
"Supervisors must ensure that their workers understand the safety systems and procedures and ensure that they are being followed at all times."
The territory's Minister for Employment and Workplace Safety, Suzanne Orr, later on Wednesday announced that the government was committed to giving WorkSafe ACT $8.7 million in funding over the next four years.
The funding, including $744,000 in 2019-20, would be used to increase the number of inspectors and staff at the safety regulator, Ms Orr said.
Master Builders ACT chief executive, Michael Hopkins, said the money would help WorkSafe and the industry work together to improve "safety culture" at local construction sites.
He said the University of Canberra Hospital death highlighted the "need for improved safety".
"In the last three budget submissions we have called for additional funding for WorkSafe inspectors, and we are pleased to see the ACT government respond in such a positive way," Mr Hopkins said.
Mr Jones said WorkSafe ACT would continue to pursue charges against the other people allegedly involved in the University of Canberra Hospital death. Watts is due to be sentenced on April 16, 2020.