The transport company responsible for the 65-year-old truckie who was fatally run over at its Yarraville depot in 2020 was sentenced in the Melbourne County Court yesterday (August 24).
Malec Holdings Pty Ltd was convicted and fined $320,000 after pleading guilty to a single charge of failing to provide and maintain a system of work that was, so far as reasonably practicable, safe and without risks to health.
In October 2020, two truck drivers returned from their usual trips collecting log loads from NSW. After unloading the logs, the drivers commenced the process of cleaning, refuelling and parking their trucks.
The court heard that as one driver reversed his truck towards the parking lot in the cramped yard, the other followed closely on foot. As the driver moved forward and began a U-turn, the deceased stood on a pile of wood debris about 10 metres away.
As the truck continued its U-turn, John Barton slipped, or tripped, on the pile of wood debris and was run over by the axles of the rear trailer. He died at the scene.
A WorkSafe Victoria investigation found that it was reasonably practicable for Malec Holdings to have reduced the risk of injury and death by removing, as much as possible, the need for B-doubles to reverse in the workplace.
It also found that Malec could have reduced the risk by implementing a traffic management plan that identified safety hazards and risks and implemented pedestrian or truck exclusion zones, with clearly marked and barricaded pedestrian walkways and marked vehicle travel routes.
WorkSafe executive director of health and safety Narelle Beer said tragedies such as this were far too common, with 15 people losing their lives and another 372 seriously injured in vehicle-related incidents so far this year.
“This awful death could have easily been avoided if the right controls were in place,” she said.
“In any workplace where vehicles are present a traffic management plan is an essential measure to prevent loss of life or serious injury, and WorkSafe will not hesitate to prosecute any duty holder who fails to prepare and implement such a plan.”
Statement from Matthew Malec, founder and CEO:
Malec Holdings has been in operation since 1997, and now has over 200 employees supplying logistics, transport and warehousing services across Australia. Malec Holdings started from very humble beginnings, just one truck with my father and me. Despite the company’s growth, it has never lost its focus on being a family-owned business where all employees are considered extended family.
John Barton was an exceptional and well-liked employee, respected by all. His passing was tragic, and Malec Holdings has mourned his loss.
Since this tragic event, Malec Holdings has completely ceased its operations in logs given their inherently dangerous nature.
It has moved its operations to new sites where reversing manoeuvres have been materially reduced or eliminated altogether. The specifically designed layouts of the new sites to drive in drive out premises promote safe working systems, significantly reduce the risk of any collisions and promote a safer system of work.
Malec Holdings has worked closely with WorkSafe and has engaged senior safety consultants to overhaul its safety protocols and traffic management plans at every site.
Malec Holdings has implemented a driver skills and assessment program, where each driver’s skills and capabilities are re-assessed, and further training is provided where required.
Greater toolbox talks are conducted by managers to reiterate important safety rules, and identify risks and issues that have arisen, with greater focus and commitment to OH&S training and supervision to ensure nothing like this tragedy happens again.
[story updated, August 28]