In October 2017, a worker of a Shoalhaven drilling company was fatally injured after being crushed by a truck. In July 2021, after a thorough investigation and the company pleading guilty, they were fined $375,000.
A worker, aged just 27, was conducting maintenance underneath a Hino that had not been properly stabilised, and was on soft, sloping ground.
The wheels were not chocked, and the jack suddenly became displaced. The truck rolled about four metres with the victim beneath it, fatally crushing him.
Sadly, the young man had only been employed for three weeks at the time of the incident. Despite only being qualified as a light vehicle mechanic, the court heard how his role was ‘to include developing and maintaining all policies and procedures for the maintenance and servicing of light and heavy vehicles’
He was unsupervised at the time of the incident, and did not have any relevant experience working on heavy vehicles.
The company pleaded guilty to the charges of breaching the Work Health and Safety Act 2011, with charges including not having safe systems of work in place to protect staff who were servicing heavy vehicles at the premises.
The court case
The case, which was brought forward by SafeWork NSW, noted that while minor repairs were performed on-site, there was no single designated area within the premises where minor repair work, general maintenance and servicing was to occur.
Judge Scotting noted that ‘work should not have been performed on the truck in the location that it was parked on the day of the incident.’
Critically, the court heard how purpose-designed wheel chocks were not provided, the company had not undertaken or documented a formal risk assessment for repair work on its fleet, and a safe work method statement (SWMS) had not been produced.
Judge Scotting commented that ‘the steps that could have been taken to eliminate the risk were simple, inexpensive and well known’.
He noted that since the incident, the company has improved its policies and procedures; particularly shortcomings in their recruitment process, which revealed the company was not aware that the worker was not qualified to work on heavy vehicles.
Commenting on the situation, Valerie Griswold, SafeWork NSW’s Executive Director of Investigations and Enforcement, said that it ‘truly presents the worst-case scenario in a workplace. We will continue to take strong enforcement action against businesses that do not uphold proper workplace safety standards because as we have seen here, innocent people can lose their lives
The importance of risk assessment
Unfortunately, in this case, the company had not undertaken a risk assessment on the truck concerned, nor on the various processes associated with servicing it.
It also had not identified the likelihood of a knowledge gap of the mechanic related to servicing and maintenance of heavy vehicles.
The consequences for failing to ensure robust machinery safety procedures are in place to manage risk can lead to devastating consequences, as this case demonstrates.
This fatality could have been prevented by following these fundamental machinery safety related processes.
Time to take action
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Prevent tragic incidents like the one above
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Disclaimer: This information is intended to provide general information on the subject matter. This is not intended as legal or expert advice for your specific situation. You should seek professional advice before acting or relying on the content of this information.