Coroner's Court of Western Australia

Inquest into the Death of Shaun McBRIDE

Inquest into the Death of Shaun McBRIDE

Delivered on :30 May 2017

Delivered at : Perth

Finding of : State Coroner

Recommendations :Yes

I recommend that the committees responsible for the relevant Australian Standards consider amendments to ensure that people working over or adjacent to water or liquid who may be at risk of falling into the water and drowning wear an approved PFD – including AS/NZS 1891.4:2009 (committee SF-015) and AS/NZS 4576:1995 (committee BD-36).

Orders/Rules : N/A

Suppression Order : N/A

Summary : The deceased was an Irish national who in 2011 was sponsored by Celtic Scaffolding to travel to Australia to work. He particularly enjoyed working in Australia and he continued to return home at intervals to be with his family.  At the time of his death the deceased was young, full of vitality and in the process of making a life for himself in Australia.  He was 28 years of age.

On 4 June 2011 the deceased was working as a scaffolder at Rio Tinto Iron Ore’s Dampier Operations at East Intercourse Island, located within the Dampier archipelago off the north-west coast of Western Australia. He was working as part of a team to dismantle a cantilevered scaffold structure that had been erected underneath the iron ore loading jetty.

During the course of the deceased’s work, part of the scaffold structure collapsed, causing him to fall from the cantilevered platform attached to the hanging scaffold under the jetty, directly into the water below. Some of the scaffolding also fell into the water.  The water was between 15-18 metres deep at that time and the deceased fell approximately 4.8 metres before he entered the water.  The deceased did not resurface and he died shortly afterwards as a result of drowning.

The focus of the inquest was on the safety measures available to the deceased for the purpose of preventing a fall into water, the reasons for the partial collapse of the scaffold, whether the deceased utilised his fall arrest system, the practices within the scaffolding industry concerning the wearing of personal floatation devices when working over water and whether any recommendation concerning those industry practices can be made to improve safety for persons working over water.

The State Coroner noted that the deceased was last observed to be standing or sitting on the ledger that separated and fell. The State Coroner was satisfied that at the point the deceased intended to traverse the ledger and swing his hammer from below in an upward motion towards the structure upon which he was standing or sitting in order to strike the underside wedge connecting the transom to the standard.  It would appear the purpose was to remove the transom and pass it up to the deceased’s colleague.

The State Coroner was satisfied on the evidence that the deceased had intended to strike the underside wedge connecting the transom to the standard (left wedge). Unfortunately however, the deceased appears to have struck the middle wedge of the brace, being the major load-bearing member of the structure.  Once this brace wedge was dislodged the deceased’s entire weight was placed on the ledger connected to the remaining scaffold.  The deceased was wearing a fall arrest harness but it had not been hooked on to the correct attachment point.

At the time the deceased was working he was carry out work on a mine site and his workplace was subject to the provisions of the Mines Safety Act. There is no specific legislation or regulation that requires scaffolders to wear Personal Floatation Device (PFD’s) when working over water on a mine site under the Mines Safety Act.

The Court heard evidence from an independent expert scaffolding consultant who was chair of committee BD/36 which is responsible for scaffolding standards, Standards Australia, who expressed his support for the consideration of an amendment to the Australian/New Zealand Guidelines for scaffolding (AS/NZS 4576:1995) to address the wearing of PFD’s by scaffolders in order to mitigate the risks of a fall into water.

The Court heard from the Department of Mines and Petroleum and the State Mining Engineer, to support a recommendation to the effect that consideration be given by the relevant Australian Standards committees to the making of amendments regarding the wearing of an approved PFD while working over or adjacent to water, where there is a risk of falling and drowning. The State Coroner determined to make a recommendation to this effect to avoid deaths arising in similar circumstances.

The State Coroner found the deceased died on 4 June 2011 at Rio Tinto Wharf, East Intercourse Island, Dampier as a result of drowning and death arose by way of accident.

Catch Words : Personal Floatation Devices : Scaffold Systems : Hazards of working over water : Drowning : Accident.


Last updated: 30-Apr-2019

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