Aussie Skips Recycling Pty Ltd and its general manager, Emmanuel Roussakis, were fined $525,000 and $60,000 respectively on July 21, 2022 following an incident that led to a worker being killed by a reserving front-end loader.
Aussie Skips and Roussakis received 25 per cent discounts for their early guilty pleas to breaching multiple sections of the NSW Work Health and Safety Act 2011 including:
Aussie Skips: 19 (“Primary duty of care”)
Aussie Skips: 32 (“Failure to comply with health and safety duty–Category2”)
Roussakis: 27 (“Duty of officers”), in failing to exercise due diligence to ensure the PCBU complied with its section-19 duty.
Occurring in May 2018, the incident took place at Aussie Skips’ South Strathfield waste transfer station. Workers were employed at the station to manually sort through and remove recyclable materials from waste piles that were tipped into the yard by trucks.
At the time of the accident, two employees were working through waste piles when a driver moved a pile of previously sorted materials using a front-end loader. In an effort to move themselves out of the way, the two workers walked behind the front-end loader while it pushed the materials into a sheltered bay. As the front-end loader reversed, it struck one of the workers and continued to fully reverse over the top of him before coming to a stop. The man was declared dead at the scene.
District Court Judge David Russell said: “There was no explanation as to why there were no adequate precautions in place, by the time of the incident, in relation to readily foreseeable collisions between pedestrians and heavy machinery”.
Judge Russell specifically noted the following dangerous behaviours taking place at the waste station:
CCTV footage captured multiple workers walking in the yard in close proximity to moving plant and vehicles, including the loader and B-double and tip trucks.
A safety barrier along the edge of the yard for workers to stand behind was obstructed by waste, and was therefore incapable of providing satisfactory protection.
PCBU effectively told workers to “watch out for yourself”, instead of implementing proper controls.
The company had not conducted a risk assessment related to the hazard.
Management plan that Roussakis was responsible for implementing was missing critical information on controlling risks associated with the interaction of vehicles and workers. Additionally, there was no traffic management plan, safe work procedure or safe system of work for the front-end loader.
Pre-start check list for the front-end loader – required by the company’s safe work method statement –was not completed prior to the fatality, and a later inspection revealed the reversing camera was not working.
Post-incident safety improvement
Following the fatal incident Aussie Skips has implemented the following safety procedures:
Updated their SWMS and WHS management system
Developed a traffic management plan
Implemented “safe zones”
Appointed a WHS/HR officer
Replaced manual pickers with a skid steer loader
For information on this incident, please NSW Court case summary.
It should not take a catastrophic incident to trigger the creation of safe systems of work for machinery and related operations. This incident could have been easily avoided with a relatively minor investment in a safe system of work.
If you have even the slightest of doubts about your current machinery related safety systems, we encourage you to take our Machinery Safety System Health Check. It walks you through each area of your safety systems and shows you how to improve. It’s free to do, and simple to complete – there is really no excuse not to.Machinery Safety System Health Check
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