By Michael Selinger
In a timely reminder of the importance to ensure workers are appropriately trained in your safety systems, a Queensland company as well as one of its officers were recently fined a combined total of $54,000 when a member of the public was struck and injured by a water tank being delivered to her property.
On 17 May 2018, an elderly woman was injured when a large water tank weighing approximately 400kg struck her as it was being unloaded at her rural property.
The tank was supplied and delivered by the Q Solutions Co Pty Ltd (the Company). On the day of the incident, the driver failed to warn the woman that he was in the process of unloading the tank. The tank struck the woman and she suffered a significant injuries including a fractured sternum, bruising and a laceration above her eye.
The Company and the officer, Tobias Peacock, both pleaded guilty to failing to ensure safety of the member of the public. In this case, the court heard that:
- The Company had procedures in place for unloading of tanks, which involved pushing the tanks off the truck or trailer onto the ground. The tanks would then roll some distance before coming to a stop.
- The driver, who only worked with the Company for a couple of weeks, had received some “hands on” training but had not been trained in the procedures to deal with members of the public coming near the unloading of the tank.
- The Company did not have any system of establishing an exclusion zone or a system to lower the tanks to the ground in a controlled manner.
Following the incident, the company sought assistance from Workplace Health and Safety Queensland and amended its procedure to include the establishment of exclusion zones and the controlled lowering of tanks.
The company was fined $34,000 and ordered to pay costs of nearly $850. The officer was fined $20,000 and ordered to pay costs of nearly $850.
Lessons for employers
The case demonstrates the importance of reviewing a system of work to ensure that it provides the safest approach that can reasonably be achieved.
In this case, reliance on members of the public to ‘keep away’ was not effective, particularly where there was a system involving an uncontrolled movement of a heavy structure.
In addition, for the systems that were in place, there was a lack of demonstrated training of new employees on the safe work method.