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Thales fined over Bendigo fatality

2 June 2023

Defence contractor Thales Australia has been convicted and fined $450,000 for safety failures that resulted in the death of a worker at its Bendigo factory.

An investigation by Commonwealth WHS regulator Comcare alleged the company failed to provide and maintain a safe system of work and failed to provide information and training to workers.

Thales pleaded guilty in late April to a single charge of breaching the federal Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (WHS Act) and was sentenced in the Bendigo Magistrates’ Court today.

The incident happened on 2 July 2020 at Thales’s Bendigo North facility where the company manufactures Hawkei protected vehicles for the Australian Defence Force.

A 50-year-old Thales worker suffered fatal crush injuries when an unsecured vehicle subframe and base plate, weighing almost a tonne, fell from a paint positioner during an unloading operation in the facility’s paint shop.

Comcare Chief Executive Officer Greg Vines said the risks to workers were known by the company.

“Thales knew workers considered the existing process for loading and unloading subframes on the positioners was difficult and that alternative methods were under consideration,” Mr Vines said.

“There were a number of measures available to Thales that could have prevented this incident, including establishing an effective exclusion zone and providing adequate training.

“These were systemic failures with tragic consequences.”

Thales admitted to breaching section 32 of the WHS Act – exposing workers to a risk of death or serious injury by failing to comply with its primary health and safety duty. The charge is a Category 2 criminal offence, carrying a maximum penalty of $1.5 million.

Thales Australia Limited is a licenced national employer in the Comcare scheme and subject to regulation under Commonwealth work health and safety laws.

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Page last reviewed: 02 June 2023

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Date printed 21 Apr 2024