In August 2009, Bruce Austin a working director of a small business, The Saver Guys, died from head injuries after he was hit by a length of pipe that was being extracted from the ground.
Mr Austin’s business had been contracted by another entity, Applied Soil Technology Pty Ltd. The relevant work was being overseen by Austerberry Directional Drilling Services Pty Ltd, who had in turn been engaged by Eastern Energy Australia Ltd on behalf of a related corporation, Eastern Star Gas Ltd.
At the time of the accident, Mr Austin and others were trying to recover a blocked pipeline from under the ground.
Although a number of entities were prosecuted and convicted in relation to the fatality, this case looked at the safety management arrangements in place between Eastern Star Gas and Austerberry Directional Drilling. The case provides some useful insights into the expectations placed on businesses removed to an extent from the conduct of the physical work by a contractor. It also demonstrates how an organisations’ own, documented safety management systems (in this case a contractor safety management system) can be used to demonstrate that the organisation is not meeting its obligations.
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