Serious crush injury highlights failure of safety in building and plant design

The purpose of this safety alert is to remind individuals who control or manage the design process for buildings, plant and equipment of the legal requirements regarding safe design.


A worker received serious head injuries after being pinned between a wall and an electrical switchboard at the Palmerston Police Station construction site.

The incident occurred when three workers attempted to manually manoeuvre the top-heavy switchboard into position using four load skates. During the manoeuvre, the switchboard had to travel over a cable pit covered by checker plates.  A separate Safety Alert has been issued for the use of load skates.

Image taken outside of the switchroom, showing the toppled switchboard through the open door.

Image shows the toppled over switchboard filling the switchroom.

Contributing factors included

  • Inadequate consultation between the design team, the construction company and electrical sub-contractor which meant:
    • A 4300mm long cable pit was added, after construction of the switch room had been finished.
    • A 4500mm long, 600mm wide and 2100mm high top-heavy switchboard, weighing approximately 1.8 tonnes, was delivered for installation into a room measuring only 5010mm long and 2395mm wide.
  • The documentation supplied by the switchboard manufacturer did not include installation instructions or any plant specifications as required by Australian Standards.
  • The dimensions of the switchboard and the switch room limited the options available to the workers to manoeuvre the switchboard into position and safety instructions common for load skates could not be followed, namely
    • The load should rest completely on the skates.
    • Load skates should only be used on solid flat smooth surfaces, free from any obstructions.
    • Workers should never stand in a position between the load and a wall or other fixed structures to avoid the risk of becoming pinned.

Action required

The Work Health and Safety (National Uniform Legislation) Act 2011 requires individuals, such as architects, designers and engineers (design team), to ensure that buildings and plant are designed to be without risks to the health and safety of persons.

  • Designers have a duty to consider the lifecycle of plant when designing new buildings. Safety in design reports should highlight and provide specific design solutions for the safe method of construction, installation, maintenance and replacement.
  • Consultation should occur pre-build between the design team, Principal Contractor and key sub-contractors (including plant designers) to review the control measures outlined in the Safety in Design report.
  • The Principal Contractor and key sub-contractors should raise any residual hazards not covered in the Safety in Design report for control measures to be developed.
  • Plant manufacturers must supply the appropriate documents including plant specifications, installation and operating instructions.
  • Any change to a design or specification during construction must be raised with the Design Team.
  • The Design Team must consider the implications of any changes, and additional safety in design reports provided to the Principal Contractor when necessary.

Further information

For further information please refer to the following


Guidance publications

Safety Alert


This Safety Alert contains safety information following inquires made by NT WorkSafe about an incident or unsafe practice. The information contained in this Alert does not necessarily include the outcome of NT WorkSafe’s action with respect to an incident. NT WorkSafe does not warrant the information in this Alert is complete or up-to-date and does not accept any liability for the information in this report or as to its use.