An international construction giant and a local crane company each face a fine of up to $1.5 million after pleading guilty to charges laid over the death of a worker.
Herman Holtz, 62, was fatally crushed by a falling crane on the University of Canberra Hospital construction site, at Bruce, in August 2016.
The mobile crane's driver, Michael John Watts, subsequently received a suspended 12-month jail sentence after pleading guilty to a charge of engaging in reckless conduct that exposed Mr Holtz to the risk of death or serious injury.
Watts, 49, admitted repeatedly overriding safety mechanisms and ignoring warning alarms to continue operating the machine at 130.5 per cent of its rated capacity as he tried to lift and re-position a 10.3-tonne generator.
He was given a substantial discount on his sentence in exchange for agreeing to give evidence against eight other people and companies charged over Mr Holtz's death.
The charges against three of the individuals were later dismissed, leaving allegations levelled at:
- Mr Holtz's employer and the hospital project's principal contractor, Multiplex Constructions;
- Multiplex senior site supervisor Andrew Drummond;
- Watts' employer, subcontractor RAR Cranes;
- Paul Kelly, a dogman who worked for RAR Cranes; and
- RAR Cranes director Jeffrey Rumble.
All five were set to fight their charges at a hearing in the ACT Industrial Court next week.
But on Thursday, prosecutor Kylie Weston-Scheuber told the court she had reached an agreement with lawyers for each of the parties.
She offered no evidence against Mr Drummond, Mr Kelly and Mr Rumble, who were each accused of serious breaches of the Work, Health and Safety Act.
Chief Magistrate Lorraine Walker accordingly dismissed that trio's charges.
Multiplex and RAR Cranes, meanwhile, both pleaded guilty to one count of exposing Mr Holtz to the risk of death or serious injury by failing to comply with a health and safety duty.
Barrister Garry Livermore QC entered the plea on behalf of Multiplex, while Dean Jordan SC did so for RAR Cranes.
MORE COURT AND CRIME NEWS:
Agreed facts tendered in relation to Multiplex note the maximum penalty for the offence, when committed by a corporation, is a $1.5 million fine.
A more serious charge levelled at both companies, carrying a maximum fine of $3 million, was dismissed after Dr Weston-Scheuber offered no evidence in relation to it.
The facts show that Multiplex determined on August 4, 2016, that the generator had to be moved to a new position that day so it would be ready for an operation the next morning.
It was recommended to Multiplex that a much larger crane than the one in question be used to perform the fateful lift, but this did not eventuate.
A litany of failures occurred before the machine ultimately tipped over, with a counterweight designed to increase its lifting capacity fitted back to front and risk assessments not completed as required.
While RAR Cranes has also pleaded guilty, the facts in relation to its offence have not yet been agreed.
Ms Walker ordered that those facts be filed with the court late next month, ahead of a sentencing date for RAR Cranes in January 2022.
Multiplex is due to be sentenced in November.
Our journalists work hard to provide local, up-to-date news to the community. This is how you can continue to access our trusted content: