Guilty plea after death at Shepparton business | Shepparton News

2022-06-25 08:18:34 By : Ms. Laurel Zhang

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A concrete pipe manufacturing company has pleaded guilty to failing to provide and maintain a safe system of work over the death of an employee in Shepparton in 2018.

Precast Civil Industries Pty Ltd, trading as MC Pipes, pleaded guilty in the County Court to the single charge.

The charge comes after the death of Nathan Lewis, 25, at the Provincial Cres business in Shepparton on September 21, 2018.

Mr Lewis, who was working as a leading hand, died after he was drawn into a concrete press and crushed by the conveyor while cleaning the machine.

Prosecutor Tim Bourbon told the court Mr Lewis climbed over a guard rail next to the control desk and stood on the work bench of a Top Werk Prinzing-Pfeiffer machine, known as the red radial press, that was used to make 300-525mm pipes.

He told the court the work bench had stopped operating, but the concrete feed conveyor was still operating at the time.

Mr Lewis used a hammer on the conveyor rollers to remove hardened concrete that had accumulated during production.

He made contact with a return roller on the underside of the concrete feed conveyor and was subsequently drawn in and crushed by the conveyor, Mr Bourbon said.

The court was told the rollers only needed cleaning every three months and the usual procedure to clean the underside of them was that a man cage on a forklift would be used to lift a worker under the conveyor to hit the rollers with a hammer.

It was also not usual to have the conveyors on when cleaning was taking place.

The court also heard another press, that made different sized pipes, had self-cleaning rollers, but this press did not.

Mr Bourbon also told the court of some safety features on the press.

When WorkSafe attended the site after Mr Lewis’ death, they were told it was “common practice” for employees to climb over guard rails on the press, Mr Bourbon said.

The court was told Precast Civil Industries had implemented new safety measures when WorkSafe examined the site several times in October 2018 and that self-cleaning rollers had been affixed to the red radial press by the time inspectors visited in April the following year.

Mr Bourbon read victim impact statements to the court from Mr Lewis’ partner, father and aunt, while a statement from his mother was also tendered.

Mr Lewis’ partner Taryn Irwn spoke of a man who was “loving and kind-hearted” who had a bright future ahead of him.

She told how she now had panic attacks over unanswered calls and texts to loved ones.

Mr Lewis’ dad Mark Lewis told of losing his only child in “such horrific circumstances”.

“I will never hear his laugh or hear him call me Dad again,” he said.

Mr Lewis’ aunt Melissa Eaton spoke of missing her nephew’s “voice, his crazy laugh and caring and kind attitude”.

“The way he was taken from us was horrific,” she said.

“Everyone should come home from work safely.”

Precast Civil Industries’ barrister Samuel Stafford said the company accepted the matter was serious and Mr Lewis’ passing was a tragic loss.

However, he said the breaches were at a “moderate level of culpability” and that the degree of culpability for an unsafe workplace must not be measured by the outcome.

Mr Stafford told the court that cleaning the press using the forklift and cage was a “reasonably practicable one” but the safety measures in place could be “circumvented”.

He also said there was not any previous incidents where Mr Lewis or anyone else had cleaned the conveyor while it was operating.

He also said all three rollers of the machine needed to be cleaned and the forklift and cage would have been needed to clean the other two.

Judge Justin Hannebery will hand down the sentence at a later date.

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