PROTECTIVE bars had been removed from a skid steer involved in a fatal workplace accident at Bradken in Wodonga, a court has heard.
Peter Watson died on July 22, 2014, when a hot metal casting weighing 276 kilograms fell through the machine's windscreen.
The 42-year-old father-of-two had been moving the metal into a cooling bin and was crushed to death.
The company was last year charged with failing to provide and maintain a safe plant.
A hearing in the Wodonga Magistrates Court on Thursday was told the design of the Komatsu skid steer had been changed after an incident that caused the cabin to distort.
Night shift supervisor Leslie Stevens – who saw what occurred and has been left deeply impacted by Mr Watson’s death – said the bars would prevent the casting falling into the cabin.
“In my experience, it was safer with the bars than without the bars,” he said.
“The glass, I assume, was only windscreen glass and castings weigh more than 200 kilograms.
“Glass would not stop a casting … as per the accident.”
Mr Stevens said he knew of a previous incident – probably with a different brand skid steer – where exposed hydraulic hoses had been hit and burst and caught on fire.
Employee Matthew Breewell said he knew of two or three incidents where things had fallen from skid steers and smashed the glass.
He had heard of one such incident about three months before Mr Watson’s death.
It was unclear whether Mr Watson scooped the casting, or used a jaw-like mechanism to pick it up.
Mr Breewell, Mr Stevens and employee Paulo Stefani said they would not use the scoop technique as it was too dangerous.
Mr Breewell, who has worked at Bradken for 23 years, said holding the bucket high could be dangerous.
“It would not be too good,” he said.
He had always been taught to keep the bucket low, he told the court.
Mr Stevens said there was a risk castings could go over the top of the bucket.
Bradken Canada manufacturing manager Andrew Bisceglia said there wasn't a lot of equipment made specifically for the foundry industry.
“I think that's where lessons can be learnt,” he said in a statement tendered to the court.
Skid steers were never used in the company's plant in Karrabin, Queensland, he said, but much larger items were being moved.
“Certainly the danger is you have the same instance you have here,” he said of the Wodonga death.
The matter will return to court on April 13.