Crushing accident results in massive fines for transport firm

Date:Jan 12, 2012

A transport company has been fined $225,000 and ordered to pay WorkCover NSW's legal costs after it was found guilty of failing to provide a safe workplace for a 60-year-old worker who was crushed to death by a heavy loader.

On August 5 2008, the victim was working for Finray - a transport and extraction service company that was contracted to move fresh-cut logs from a forestry site to a nearby sawmill.

As part of his normal duties, the man was using a power loader to lift the green timber from the ground and place it on the back of a semi-trailer.

He got out of the heavy vehicle for some reason and was struck by the commercial plant while on ground level.

The industrial court heard how the machine - which was 30 years old at the time - was known to be without a working park brake before the fatal incident and did not have any other stopping mechanisms.

As a result, the loader rolled forward quite freely, inflicting massive crushing injuries to the man who later died at the scene.

Justice Frank Marks noted in his decision that the use of this type of heavy machinery when it was in such an obvious state of disrepair was a serious breach of health and safety legislation.

The combination of powered equipment the size of a power loader with a lack of breaking mechanism meant that an accident resulting in serious injury was entirely foreseeable, according to WorkCover NSW’s general manager of Workplace Health and Safety Division John Watson.

Watson described the case as "tragic" as there were simple measures that could have been taken that could have helped to prevent the accident from occurring in the first place.

"If a park brake or other braking mechanism had been installed in the loader and had been activated, the employee would not have been fatally injured," said Watson.

"This is a sad reminder of the need to make sure all workplace equipment is safe. This company did not do this and a man has died."

The industrial court found Finray guilty of breaching Section 8 of the Occupational Health and Safety Act 200 and fined the organisation a total of $225,000.

Watson asserted: "The fine goes some way to highlighting the seriousness of the offences."

Workplace injuries can be a serious concern to employees working around heavy machinery, as the potential for serious accidents is always present.

While compensation lawyers can offer some respite after the fact, the best form of action is to deal with hazards to reduce the risk they pose.