Industrial giant Bradken is expected to face court next week concerning a breach of safety standards over the death of an AMWU delegate at it’s Wodonga foundry nearly two years ago.
The company has been charged under Victoria’ Occupational Health and Safety Act, arising from an incident which killed experienced night shift worker Peter Watson on July 22, 2014.
Mr Watson, 42, was operating a skid steer loader to pick up a 276kg load of recently-cast hot metal castings when the load slipped, engulfing him and crushing him.
The father of two boys died at the scene after paramedics had arrived.
The incident was the first workplace death in Wodonga in eight years and deeply distressed many of Mr Watson’s workmates, particularly those who were on shift that night and tried to help him.
At the town’s Workers Memorial Day ceremony a few weeks ago Mr Watson was again remembered. Last year his two sons last year unveiled a plaque donated by the AMWU and local Trades Hall in the memorial rock at Sumison Gardens.
Bradken Resources Pty Ltd has been charged by WorkSafe Victoria for an alleged failure to provide and maintain a safe plant.
An initial filing hearing has been scheduled for Monday at the Wodonga Magistrates Court.
The charge carries a maximum fine of $350,000 if heard in a Magistrates Court or $1.3 million if heard in the Country Court.
AMWU organiser Dave Corben said: “Our members want to make sure that his two young sons are okay, that they are looked after financially.”
Mr Corben said there had been some disquiet and frustration among members over the past two years at the amount of time the WorkSafe investigation had taken and that almost no information had been released to the public.
There has been no coronial inquest into the death.
A member at the foundry said the matter had been “shrounded in secrecy” and this had not been helped by Bradken no longer having a human resources manager in Wodonga.
Mr Corben said Mr Watson’s family, friends and the wider community deserved to know the full circumstances of what had occurred and were hoping this would emerge before the court.
“We have members who were there at the time who are still working at the site and they’ve been asking our delegate about it,” he said.
“It’s still unsettled at the site because a lot of people want a full explanation about what happened, about where the responsibility lay, so they can move on. There is considerable frustration it has taken so long.”
AMWU Victorian Secretary Steve Dargavel said the union had over many years urged WorkSafe to take strong action in investigating and prosecuting cases where there had been a workplace fatality.
He welcomed that this case was progressing. He said a safe workplace for employees was the highest priority.