Santos fined $120k over worker’s death

Santos has been fined $120,000 over the death of a worker at its Pilliga site in 2009.

 Bruce Austin, 57, died from massive head injuries after being struck by a piece of pipeline during work at the CSG site which was owned by Eastern Star Gas at the time.

The Industrial Court of NSW heard Austin was contracted to help remove a piece of pipeline out of the ground and that shortly before he was struck, was asked to sit some distance away from the operation.

However, shortly after the chain that was pulling the pipe broke, Austin was found unconscious.

He died later in hospital.

Eastern Star Gas, which has since been taken over by Santos, pleaded guilty to breaching occupational health and safety laws.

In handing down his judgement, Justice Conrad Staff said it was “obvious and foreseeable that there was a risk of injury to any person at the site if struck by a recoiling pipeline”, The Northern Daily Leader reported.

“Although (Eastern Star Gas) had systems of work that were capable of ensuring safety, it failed to adopt its own procedures to check that there were safe work methods in place in respect of the activities being undertaken at the site,” he said.

“It did not attend the site and it did not take the necessary steps to ensure that there was proper supervision.”

He added that “simple and effective measures” could have been taken to prevent the accident.

Austin’s widow, Ann Austin, said Eastern Star Gas had behaved in a “cavalier” manner towards herself and her family.

“The realisation to her and her family that occupational health and safety policies were not put in place was devastating,” Justice Staff said.

Justice Staff said since Santos NSW had taken over Eastern Star Gas, the company had put comprehensive health and safety policies in place.

“In my view, Santos’sOHS policies are of some significance in determining the appropriate penalty and in assessing whether there is a likelihood that a similar incident would occur in the future,” he said.

He fined the company $120,000.

Santos spokesman Sam Crafter said since taking over Eastern Star Gas operations, the company had set strict safety measures and overhauled work practices to increase safety at its sites.

“At the recent hearing on behalf of Santos,we expressed our condolences to Mr Austin’s family,” he said. 

 “The safety of our workers and contractors is our highest priority. 

“Every worker has the right to return home from work safely each day and it is a tragedy when this does not happen.”


To keep up to date with Australian Mining, subscribe to our free email newsletters delivered straight to your inbox. Click here.