Centurion fined $200,000 for tyre failure fatality

Centurion Transport has spoken for the first time publicly about the tyre accident that resulted in the tragic death of much-loved truckie Alan Edwards (Bones), 56, in 2019.

The company was recently sentenced in the Wynnum Magistrates Court for a breach of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 and fined $200,000, although a conviction wasn’t recorded.

“The death of our employee at the Port of Brisbane was a tragedy that was felt deeply by our colleague’s family and everyone at Centurion Transport,” a spokesperson told our sister publication Australian Transport News.

The tyre, which was relatively new, having been in circulation for less than one year, unexpectedly failed during inflation, said Centurion.

An independent expert engaged by Worksafe Queensland concluded that the tyre had a manufacturing defect which made the tyre susceptible to premature failure.

Centurion had an arrangement with a service provider for tyre fitting services such as tyre inflation so that Centurion employees would not have to perform this work themselves. 

However, Centurion accepts that deficiencies arose in the implementation of its safety systems as well as clear directions to employees not to undertake their own tyre inflation.

The investigation by Workplace Health and Safety Queensland identified a tear of approximately 12.5cm in the wall of a tyre on the dolly trailer.

An expert determined the tear was caused by a ‘zipper failure’, describing a tear of all the components in the sidewall of the steel cord radial ply truck tyre. 

A zipper failure causes the instantaneous release of stored energy. The expert found that the tyre’s steel body ply cords were contaminated during manufacturing, which led to corrosion and contributed to its failure. 

The investigation also determined the inflation equipment did not have a clip-on valve nozzle, which would have allowed the worker to inflate the tyre from a safe distance. The absence of that device, and the consequent proximity of the worker to the tyre, exposed the worker to a risk of death or serious injury when the tyre failed.

The investigation by Workplace Health and Safety Queensland also found that the defendant failed to provide a safe work method for inflating tyres. 

Although the defendant had a third-party service agreement to maintain the truck tyres, tyre pressures were only checked sporadically. Several workers attempted to inflate tyres using their own equipment, which the defendant failed to prohibit.

In sentencing, Magistrate Sarra considered that the defendant company accepted responsibility by pleading guilty and by implementing control measures to address the risks of tyre inflation. 

These measures included requiring workers to inflate tyres using a long hose with a clip-on valve nozzle and removing them from the vicinity of a tyre to guard against the risk in the event of an explosion.

His Honour said the legislative framework encouraged preventive measures, including regular risk assessments, to avoid serious injuries and deaths at workplaces, and noted that companies bear a heavy onus to ensure that safe systems are in place.

Magistrate Sarra accepted the prosecution’s submission that Edwards’ death could have been avoided if proper procedures had been implemented.

He also said that those measures were inexpensive and only mildly inconvenient. In mitigation, the Magistrate noted the defendant’s cooperation with the investigation, remorse, implementation of post-incident control measures, lack of prior offending and early guilty plea.

Centurion’s position remains that all tyre repairs and inflation should not be undertaken by employees unless absolutely necessary. 

Furthermore, Centurion has taken significant steps to address any deficiencies in its safety systems and to mitigate the risk of any further tyre related incidents occurring. 

In particular:

– Shortly after the incident Centurion issued a company-wide directive to immediately cease all tyre inflation activities on the brand of tyre in question.

– Centurion completed a full recall of these tyres (more than 3000) within one month of the incident and no longer procures the relevant brand of tyres for its heavy haulage fleet. 

– Multiple Safe Work Procedures were developed to describe the necessary steps and controls to undertake changing and inflation of tyres across the business.

– All heavy haulage drivers and workers were trained in these Safe Work Procedures by a certified training assessor.

– All heavy haulage drivers are now provided with tyre inflation kits and protective equipment to aid in safety performing these tasks.

“These steps demonstrate Centurion’s approach to the safety of its employees, customers and the public,” a spokesperson concluded.

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