An experienced truck driver has pleaded guilty in the Longreach Magistrates Court to breaching his work health and safety duty over an incident in which a young worker was crushed and spent 18 days in hospital.
The truckie was charged under Queensland’s Work Health and Safety Act 2011 for not taking reasonable care that his acts or omissions did not adversely affect the health and safety of another person.
He was fined $5000 and ordered to pay court costs of $850. No conviction was recorded.
The court heard that on February 8, 2020, the defendant was working on a Winton property connecting three trailers to a truck.
Due to one or more missing clips, a trailer’s wear pad hung down partially, preventing a clean connection between the third trailer and the dolly attached to the rear of the second trailer.
A Workplace Health and Safety Queensland investigation found the truck driver told a young worker to use a 1.5m broom handle to hold up the wear pad to make the connection. However, the young worker went under the trailer to hold up the wear pad because he found the broom handle was too short.
The defendant reversed the truck even though he couldn’t see the teenager, crushing him between the dolly and the trailer stand.
The young worker suffered significant crush injuries to his pelvis, spending 18 days in hospital, and was unable to work for seven months.
In sentencing, Magistrate Stephen Courtney noted the defendant was an experienced truck driver and the only person at the workplace with proper knowledge and expertise in coupling trailers, whereas the victim, whilst having skill working in rural areas, was only a young man.
He also acknowledged it was the truckie who devised the plan for coupling the trailer and was in control of the attempt to do so but the young worker did not comply with his direction.
Magistrate Courtney said even the original plan of the young worker standing next to the trailer and holding up the wear pad with a broom while the dolly and two multi-tonne trailers approached would have placed him in danger.
It was worse still that the defendant failed to ensure the plan was carried out and his co-worker safe, either by making sure he was in line of sight or by using a spotter.
His Honour took into account the defendant’s guilty plea, his otherwise good character, lack of criminal history, financial circumstances and the assistance he provided to the worker and to Work Health and Safety Queensland during the investigation.