Darwin shipping company Conlon Murphy fined $190k over death of barge deckhand

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Updated

December 13, 2018 19:54:58

A Darwin shipping company whose workplace practices posed an “obvious risk of death” has been fined $190,000 after a deckhand lost his grip and drowned.

Key points:

  • Conlon Murphy pleaded guilty to breaching workplace health and safety duty
  • Local Court told company was aware of “foreseeable” risks to life
  • Devastated partner is pushing for introduction of industrial manslaughter laws

Daniel Bradshaw, 37, was found floating in Darwin Harbour between the Sammy Express barge and the Hudson Creek wharf in January 2017.

Conlon Murphy, trading as Barge Express, pleaded guilty to breaching a workplace health and safety duty after failing to ensure safe access to the barge, to hold regular safety meetings for crew and to ensure workers were not impeded by fatigue or alcohol.

NT WorkSafe investigations found no gangway was in place to allow safe access from the barge that Mr Bradshaw had been working and living on during his fly-in-fly-out shift.

“This was in my view a case where a simple well-known precaution … was not taken,” Deputy Chief Judge Elizabeth Morris said in sentencing.

At the time, workers were required to jump across a gap onto a tyre tied to the wharf, before pulling themselves up onto the wharf with chains and rope.

It was likely Mr Bradshaw failed to negotiate this manoeuvre around 6:00am, lost his grip and hit the back of his neck before falling into the water unconscious, Deputy Chief Judge Morris said, reading aloud the NT Coroner’s findings on the death.

The judge agreed there was an “obvious risk of death” and that this risk was known to Conlon Murphy.

The court heard barge employees used a shed at the wharf to drink after work and that Mr Bradshaw had a blood alcohol reading of .28 when he was found.

“There was tacit permission to consume alcohol in the vicinity of the workplace,” the judge said.

Deputy Chief Judge Morris said the lack of a gangway, Darwin’s huge tides, employee fatigue and alcohol consumption together presented a serious “foreseeable” risk to life.

“It would appear from all the evidence that there was a gangway in the yard available at the time but it wasn’t used,” she said.

Conlon Murphy’s lawyer Ben O’Loughlin accepted the company had not followed its policies and procedures on installing gangways and ensuring employees did not consume alcohol at the site.

NT WorkSafe lawyer Helena Blundell said there had been two serious workplace incidents in the Northern Territory since Mr Bradshaw’s death, both involving failure to ensure safe access.

“It is submitted that the risk in this case was not caused by mere inadvertence or a lapse in supervision,” she said.

“This is an issue that does genuinely affect the safety of workers in the marine industry.”

‘We’re living a life sentence without Dan’

Outside court, Mr Bradshaw’s partner Tanya Louth said the Northern Territory should follow Queensland’s lead and introduce an industrial manslaughter offence.

“He died from workplace negligence. So, that’s the bottom line,” she said.

“We’re a family left shattered over what’s happened. The children are left fatherless.

“The owners of the company get to walk free, with a small penalty, which is just absurd.”

Ms Louth said industrial manslaughter laws would help push companies towards prioritising safety before profit.

“It’s not about jailing employers, people are getting the wrong idea with this. It’s about making workplaces safer,” she said.

“We’re living a life sentence without Dan, so no penalty’s going to make our lives any better.

“I’m here today, and my family are behind me on this, to make sure that other dads can come home to their children.”

The court heard Ms Louth had received limited support from the company since Mr Bradshaw’s death, although Mr O’Loughlin told the court his client paid for his funeral and some flight costs.

“Not one phone call of sympathy. Very surprising,” she said.

“When you are traumatised and when you are devastated to this degree, and there is not one person that comes to help you.”

Deputy Chief Judge Morris said she accepted Conlon Murphy had shown remorse for its conduct.

Topics:

disasters-and-accidents,

accidents,

workplace,

community-and-society,

death,

nt,

darwin-0800

First posted

December 13, 2018 19:49:25



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