The contractor involved in the tragic 2012 ACT truck crash that claimed the life of a truck driver has been handed a $1.1million fine, in what has been labelled as a warning to managers nationwide.
In a recent post on Fullyloaded.com.au it was highlighted that the first outing of the national work health and safety law has resulted in a record-high fine for the trucking firm. The magistrate has handed down a fine more than two-thirds of the maximum penalty allowed.
The contractor was hired by the ACT government for road resurfacing works when the tragic accident took place. The incident that resulted in the fine took place in March 2012 when David O’Meley Truck Hire driver Michael Booth was electrocuted when his tip truck was operating beneath low-hanging power lines.
The ACT industrial magistrate Lorraince Walker’s reasoning in the case is likely to be scrutinized by the transport and logistics industry, as it led to the record $1.1million fine.
Charges against the project manager in the case were dropped after it was found that he wasn’t an “officer” of the contractor, despite his multiple safety failures.
Managers in the transport and logistics industry, together with their legal advisors will undoubtedly be examining all the aspects of the case, particularly because a truck driver was killed during the incident.
The magistrate ruled,
“Mr Al-Hasani had responsibility as an employee but he is not charged in that capacity,”
The magistrate also noted that nepotism within the company had contributed to the problem with the company being family run and the son being employed as a safety officer despite not having experience or a qualification in safety systems.
The state government highlighted the importance of the ruling and the hefty penalty. A spokesperson for acting ACT workplace safety minister Simon Corbell stated:
“The Kenoss case is one of the first in Australia where a company has been punished under new nationally-harmonised work health safety laws,”
“The fine sends a very strong message to the industry about the importance of workplace safety, particularly the well-known risks associated with working near overhead power lines.
Mr Steven Asnicar, director and lead consultant with CoR Australia stated:
“In this type of prosecution the WHS and CoR aspects function the same having the same responsibility. It’s important to remember also that the Civil prosecutions follow these types of Criminal prosecution as seen recently with a 2012 case where the Director was successfully sued for $3.2 million for damages relating to death and manslaughter charge”.
It is also important to recognise that in this case there were fairly simply implementable methods available to manage the risks and even eliminate them but these were not utilised. The government noted that 2 expert reports found that the contractor displayed a “distinct lack of safety system” in their operations.
The spokesperson went on to state:
“The company is in liquidation, but this does not prevent the court sentencing the defendant or imposing a penalty.
“The circumstances in this case were very serious and led to a tragic result.”
The ACT WorkSafe commissioner Mark McCabe also weighed in on the ruling, saying it presented a strong warning to the industry and company bosses around the country.
“This is a massive fine – in OHS terms, it’s probably the biggest we’ve seen in this country, or pretty close to it,”
Investigations found that the risk of using the site was known but the company failed to move to a safer spot to avoid the risk or post warning signs to alert workers of the dangers.
It was found that a company Safe Work Method Statement (SWMS) from two years earlier addressed the issue of construction under overhead power lines and highlighted a number of possible controls. The issue was then apparently discussed at a ‘tool box’ talk in the month before the incident, but the victim wasn’t present.
The Magistrate also stated in her ruling,
“Kenoss clearly had a duty of care to those who visited its sites, including sub-contractors such David O’Meley Truck Hire and its employees including Mr Booth,” Walker finds.
“That duty was clearly breached in failing to take adequate measures to address the risk posed by live overhead electric cables.
Read more at: http://www.fullyloaded.com.au