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January 2020

‘Borrowed’ skid steer results in fatality

‘Borrowed’ skid steer results in fatality

Phelpsys Constructions v Victorian WorkCover Authority (2018)

Facts

In June 2015, Phelpsys Constructions was performing landscaping works at a residential property. On 9 June, after work had finished, the site supervisor left a skid steer that was used for earthmoving in the garage of the property owner with the intention of returning to collect it at a later date. The keys were left inside the machine. On 11 June, the property owner’s 37-year-old son reversed the machine out of his father’s garage with the hope of levelling the front nature strip of the property.

This was work that had not yet been completed by Phelpsys Constructions as it required a council permit.

The son was later found by his father in the driver’s seat of the skid steer, bleeding from the head. He was later pronounced dead.

Judgment

There was a recognised risk to health and safety if a skid steer of this kind was not regularly inspected and maintained. It was found that Phelpsys Constructions failed to do this. An examination of the skid steer by a Toyota Material Handling Expert revealed that the machine was not in such a condition that it was safe to be used by an operator with the requisite experience.

Phelpsys Constructions pleaded guilty to a breach of s 26 of the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 (Vic) as it had breached its duty to maintain control over the workplace and ensure it was safe and without risk.

Phelpsys Constructions was fined $350,000 for the breach.

Lessons

This case emphasises the importance of maintaining and inspecting equipment and machinery regularly so as to ensure that any safety defects do not lead to serious injury or death. Further, it emphasises that the duty of maintaining a safe workplace carries on to outside of work hours.

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