SAFEWORK SA’s ENGINE ROOM

Just to be clear, when I asked the then Workplace Services (SafeWork SA) about these Borers some years ago, I was advised by the department that this Horizontal Borer (in that the one that killed Daniel) was not a common machine and that it was likely the last one left in operation in South Australia.

In fact I recall not that long after Daniel was killed, there had been a safety blitz with a focus on inspections in the Edwardstown area. Edwardstown is a hub of manufacturing that dates back many years.  I assumed this hot spot was decided upon because some of the factories may have become quite aged?  I don’t know why the area was targeted specifically but just recall reading in the paper that it was.

Imagine the bewilderment when this little piece of evidence arose from FRED HULL.  

FRED HULL gave evidence that he had witnessed many Horizontal Borers in action since the death of his apprentice:

P853 L 18 – “I went to about 4 machine shops and I recall seeing at least two that had borers the same size as what Diemould had and being operated in the same manner as Diemould did and if fact there’s even – there’s workshops in our local area that are still running those size machines and even a bigger machine.  I know of a bigger machine that’s in the Edwardstown area that’s being operated in a similar fashion.”

When I asked MR HULL whether he had notified SafeWork SA regarding all these other Horizontal Borers that he had witnessed in his travels – knowing what he knows now, and knowing they could kill a human being if not operated in a safe manner, he replied ‘No’ – when asked why, he said, “I’m not sure.” (P900 L30)

That simply made no sense to me.  How was it even possible that the inspection blitz in the area missed the very same machine that caused the death of my son.  In reading his comments, it appeared to me that MR HULL was making some effort to highlight the view that Diemould were not so different to others.  

On my arrival home that evening I sent an email to BRYAN RUSSELL (SafeWork SA Director Strategic Interventions) advising him of this evidence.  A copy was sent to Amy Cacas just for transparency.  The request to Mr Russell was a request that the department make contact with MR HULL to verify the accuracy of his evidence. Based on the information I was given some years ago, it seemed pertinent to at least ensure that this evidence was factual.  Most importantly, I requested that if these Horizontal Borers were in fact in operation, that the department ensured they were adequately guarded so as to avoid another fatality - a needless death.

I had called BRYAN RUSSELL several times throughout the inquest requesting updates. The responses were varied but effectively the department did visit Mr HULL in a timely manner and it was determined that many more Horizontal Borers existed than the department had realised.  We spoke then about getting these machines inspected.  Mr Russell advised me that it wasn’t as simple as that.  His inspectorate needed audit tools in order to do this and these needed to be worked out.

The words ‘audit tool’ made me very nervous - they had that ugly ‘red tape’ ring.  I couldn’t help but wonder how it was that they were only just now, more than 6 years after Daniel was killed, trying to piece together an audit tool.  What can one say?  This is a Government Department.  I could only maintain contact and hope things didn’t get bogged down.  

On July 21st 2010 - the morning I was due to go in and make Closing Submissions (more than 2 months later) I made my final call to Mr Russell.  I requested the final update.  I was told that they had identified about 60 Horizontal Borers in operation in South Australia.  I almost fell over!  Okay ... So how many has the Department now inspected to ensure these things are safe?  None - not one.  That ‘audit tool’ was still being ... Please - you must be kidding me?

And so that is what I brought to court that morning - in tragic postulation, PREVENTION was buried in red tape...and that an important factor in ensuring workers are safe from harm in the workplace.

Mark Johns, the Coroner was certainly interested in following up on this with the Department - and so he did as you can read in his findings.

The Coroner’s Court wrote to Mr Russell on the 25th August 2010.  SafeWork SA via BRYAN RUSSELL replied to this letter on September 29th 2010.

When I read Bryan Russell’s reply letter I was astounded.  He wrote, “In May 2010 SafeWork SA commended a compliance project...”.  Isn’t it interesting there’s no mention of this compliance project beginning as a result of this inquest and the evidence given.  

Now the number of identified workplaces operating Borers had risen to a staggering 78!  How did we ever go from “this is likely the last Horizontal Borer in operation in South Australia” to 78?

More of a concern was that of those 78 businesses operating these machine, only 7 had been paid a visit!  It took more than a month for the Department to send a reply to the Court.  I can’t help but wonder whether these 7 visits were squeezed after the Coroner’s Court had requested information.

Devastating from every perspective I can think of.  My faith in this department has hit an all time low.  

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