$650,000 fine following truck driver’s death in unloading incident

A road safety equipment manufacturer has been convicted and fined $650,000 after a 34-year-old truck driver was fatally crushed by a falling steel barrier at a Nar Nar Goon depot.

Saferoads Pty Ltd, trading as Road Safety Rentals, was sentenced in the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court on Friday May 24 after pleading guilty to two charges under the Occupational Health and Safety Act.

The company was fined $425,000 for failing to ensure persons other than employees were not exposed to risks to their health or safety and a further $225,000 for failing to ensure that the workplace and the means of entering and leaving it were safe and without risks to health.

In November 2021, a forklift was being used to unload stacked road safety barriers weighing about 925 kilograms each from a flatbed semi-trailer, when an unrestrained barrier fell from the truck onto the delivery driver, who was standing close by.

The truck driver sustained crush injuries to his head and neck, and sadly died at the scene.

A WorkSafe investigation found that while there were standard operating procedures and a safe work method statement (SWMS) prepared for the task, which included the use of a safety zone during loading and unloading, the company did not enforce these procedures and did not provide information to delivery drivers about them.

CCTV footage from the days leading up to the incident, seized during the investigation, showed multiple instances of loading and unloading where people were standing near trucks and in the area where forklifts were operating.

According to WorkSafe Victoria, it was reasonably practicable for the company to have controlled the risk by ensuring pedestrians were physically separated from mobile plant during loading and unloading and ensuring procedures developed for the work were communicated with delivery drivers and followed.

WorkSafe executive director health and safety Narelle Beer said the tragedy could have been avoided if the company had enforced its own policies and procedures.

“This worker, like all of us, had the right to return home safely at the end of the day,” she said.

“What this case sadly highlights is that it’s not enough just to have written procedures in place – employers must also ensure everyone in the workplace is aware of them and that they are being adhered to.”

WorkSafe has reminded employers using mobile plant such as forklifts to ensure:

  • A traffic management plan is in place for pedestrians and powered mobile plant, and that it is reviewed and updated as appropriate.
  • Pedestrians are separated from moving machinery and that an effective communication system between operators, transport contractors and ground staff is in place.
  • Signage is in place and barriers are erected where appropriate.
  • Visibility issues are identified and controlled, particularly if lighting is poor.
  • Workers operating equipment have the appropriate high risk work licences, as required.
  • Machinery and vehicles are regularly inspected and maintained by a suitably qualified person.
  • Employees and health and safety representatives are consulted about health and safety issues.

Big Rigs has contacted Saferoads Pty Ltd for comment.

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