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January 2020

Failure to ensure safe traffic management

DPP v City Circle Recycling Pty Ltd (2015)

Facts

On 1 December 2012, Mr Bourke, a worker at City Circle Recycling Pty Ltd, was killed after a large front-end loader reversed over him, resulting in fatal crush injuries.

As a load inspector, Mr Bourke was responsible for inspecting incoming loads and traffic management in a tipping area where trucks unloaded. He did not use a radio to communicate with truck drivers or heavy vehicle operators.

Judgment

The Court found that:

  • Mr Bourke should not have been permitted to work without a radio to communicate with the vehicle drivers and plant operators;
  • the company was responsible for training the worker to perform his duties in a safe manner;
  • exclusion zones and safety barriers were necessary in the tipping area to ensure a safe system of work; and
  • while new workers were given safety pamphlets to read, there was no written induction at the site, and informal ‘on the job’ training was conducted instead.

The company was initially fined $225,000 plus costs of $14,233. The Director of Public Prosecutions appealed the decision on the basis that the fine was inadequate.

On appeal, the Victorian County Court increased City Circle’s fine to $425,000 for failing to take reasonable and practical measures to improve safety systems in their workplace.

The fine was increased on the grounds that the respondent failed, to a significant degree, to draft and rigorously enforce safety procedures in such a hazardous workplace.

Judge Dean stated that the sentence must deter other employers from permitting workers to perform their duties using an unsafe system of work and without proper training and instruction.

Lessons

You need to ensure that safe work procedures are put in place to identify and control hazards. Take reasonably practicable measures to ensure that workers and pedestrians cannot be struck by mobile plant.

Take the following steps to avoid a similar incident occurring in your workplace:

  • ensure that workers are inducted before commencing work;
  • ensure that workers are consulted to assist in the identification of new hazards; and
  • prepare a traffic management plan in areas where there is interaction between vehicles, plant and people. Ensure that your traffic management plan includes:
  • defined walkways for pedestrians in areas where there is a safety risk;
  • barriers to separate pedestrians from dangerous work spaces;
  • signs and written traffic management plans; and
  • proper training and supervision of workers.
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