Crane driver pleads guilty to worksite death

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THE driver of the crane that fell and killed a man at the University of Canberra Hospital construction site in 2016 has pleaded guilty in the ACT Supreme Court today (February 12). 

Michael Watts was driving the crane that killed 62-year-old Herman Holtz in Bruce on August 4, 2016.

He was a worker at the site, which was led by Multiplex Constructions Pty Ltd and the subcontractor was RAR Cranes Pty Ltd.

At the time of the incident a crane was being used to move an 11 tonne generator.

Mr Watts pleaded guilty to a category one offence under the Work Health Safety Act 2011. He had originally been charged with manslaughter under the Crimes Act 1900, however, today he entered a plea of guilty, for reckless conduct failing to comply with a duty exposing persons to a risk of serious injury or death.

Mr Watts will now face sentencing on April 16. The maximum penalty for an individual for such an offence is a fine up to $300,000 and five years’ imprisonment, or both.

ACT Work Safety commissioner Greg Jones says this is the first outcome after nine parties were charged following a long and complex investigation.

“This significant prosecution sends a very strong message to the industry that safety must be the number one priority and all efforts must be made to keep workers safe,” Mr Jones says.

“The consequences and penalties for failing to meet safety obligations and responsibilities are very substantial. All workers, employers, their managers and directors, both on site and in the office, must ensure that safety is their number one priority.

“I urge every supervisor, manager and director on any worksite to continually review the risks at their workplaces and ensure that their safety systems and procedures mitigate the risks to protect their workers. Supervisors must ensure that their workers understand the safety systems and procedures and ensure that they are being followed at all times.”

WorkSafe will continue to pursue the remaining charges related to the University of Canberra Hospital construction death.

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