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Date PostedJuly 30, 2012

Death on a Desalination Construction Site

An incident in 2010 led to the death of a 35 year old worker on a construction site in Adelaide. The incident occurred when a steel beam being lifted by a crane fell and hit the worker, killing him. The incident sparked outrage as just prior to the incident workers had raised concerns about the sites safety, however nothing was done until it was too late.

While the company has been charged, family and friends of the deceased worker are unhappy that other players in the construction site were not prosecuted such as the desalination sites bosses.

This post found on Designbuildsource.com.au has more:



Charges have been laid with regard to the death of a worker who died at the construction site of the Adelaide Desalination Plant in 2010.

 In a statement, SafeWork SA has announced that it has laid charges against Ferro Con (SA) Pty Ltd and its responsible officer under the Occupational Health Safety and Welfare Act 1986.

 It said that it has investigated the circumstances surrounding the incident and found breaches relating to section 19(1), section 61(3) and 61(4) of the Act.

 The charges relate to an incident on July 16 in 2010 when 35 year old Brett Fritsch died after being hit by a steel beam which fell as it was being lifted by a crane.

 Prior to the incident, concerns had been raised about safety on the site – particularly with regard to scheduling and the speed of work.

 But there has been anger on the part of friends and family and some interest groups that only Ferro, who many see as the ‘smallest player’ in the event, has been charged.

According to media reports, supporters of the family believe a lengthy investigation allowed the desalination plant bosses who should have controlled safety at the plant to avoid prosecution over the incident.

 The two year statute of limitations for bringing criminal action with regard to the event expired yesterday, meaning that no more charges can be laid.

 In response to incident, the Australian Greens have renewed calls for introduction of industrial manslaughter laws, saying that maximum fines of only $100,000 for an individual and $300,000 for a body corporate for a first time offence are inadequate.

 Greens Industrial Spokesperson and Chair of the Select Committee into the Desalination Project, Tammy Franks currently has an amendment before the South Australian Parliament to introduce industrial manslaughter laws carrying a maximum length of imprisonment of up to 20 years.

 Ferro, a crane contractor which was part of a larger company, closed its operations in May.

 The case will be heard in the Industrial Magistrates Court on a date to be set


It seems like not a month goes by when we don’t hear of a worker being crushed or hit by a crane or its load. The movement of large loads is essential in the construction industry, so why is it that crane safety is not given more attention?

It is crucial that workers involved in crane activities are well trained and safety orientated to avoid any tragedies such as the one that claimed Brett Fritsch’s life.

A crane is a powerful tool used for shifting heavy loads to and from a vehicle. Many fatalities have occurred where workers were crushed by cranes, either when the load shifts unexpectedly or a malfunction occurs.

Employers have a responsibility to ensure that they provide a safe work environment, safe systems of work and plant and substances are in a safe condition. Employers must ensure that a hazard identification and risk assessment is carried out and that safe systems of work are implemented as control measures for all operations. They must also ensure that all crane operators are qualified and certified to operate the cranes.  Operators must also be trained in the safe operation procedure for the crane being used.

Employers have a responsibility to clear demarcate or condone off areas where cranes are being used so that workers not needed for the task do not enter the zone, this is a task that employers often overlook.

Only time will tell what the outcome of this case will be, but one can only hope that other employers learn from the poor example set by Ferro and the Desalination Plants bosses, are cautious not to repeat their mistakes.

Posted by Steven Asnicar


Steven Asnicar is regarded as a leader across many fields of industry. In particular, his specialisation across the health, infrastructure, construction, resource and utility sectors has seen him successfully change the dynamics of these industries through the introduction of new strategic, marketing, training and technical frameworks. Steven works closely with industry peak bodies such as Safework Australia, Australian Logistics Council, National Advisory for Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment (NATESE) and the Council of Australian Governments in the development of new delivery standards and industry specific programs.

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