Louis Andrews June 20, 2012
The Director of Public Prosecutions will consider charges over the death of a man in a north Canberra workplace accident more than three years ago.
Coroner Peter Dingwall yesterday found reasonable grounds to believe an offence had been committed contributing to the death of Geoffrey William ''Blackfella'' Gowan.
The ruling meant a protracted inquest into the man's death has been put on hold while the coroner refers the matter to the office of the DPP for consideration.
Mr Gowan had been working for SITA Environmental Services for a little more than a week before he died behind the Evatt shops on January 13, 2009.
Tragically it was the father-of-three's 57th birthday.
He and a colleague were collecting a hopper in pre-dawn darkness when Mr Gowan was trapped between the arm of the crane and the control panel on the side of the truck.
Paramedics arrived a short time later, but the pinned worker was already dead.
Authorities who conducted the investigation into Mr Gowan's death developed concerns about the training he received in the use of the crane.
From the outset Detective Senior Constable Rob Holst said it appeared the crane had been improperly used. But he said Mr Gowan's lack of experience, and the fact no training or licensing were required to use the machine, may have contributed to his death.
The court heard the area where the accident occurred was poorly lit, and it appeared the back light on the truck had not been switched on at the time.
The court heard fellow employees of SITA raised concerns about Mr Gowan's lack of training in the days leading up to his death.
Also, other workers also described receiving scant training in the operation of the Palfinger PK9501 vehicle loading crane.
Mr Dingwall yesterday indicated he would make no adverse findings against Palfinger Australia, the crane's local importer.
He said he had a reasonable suspicion one of the other parties represented at the inquest had committed an indictable offence in relation to the incident.
SITA, two of the company's former managers, employment provider Adecco and manufacturer Palfinger Austria were also represented at the hearing.
If charges are laid they will probably fall under the territory's occupational health and safety laws.
By law the coroner must write to the DPP, and the hearing will remain on hold pending the outcome of prosecutors' deliberations.
The inquest cannot recommence until the DPP indicates it will not prosecute or three months elapses without a case being brought.