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Roofing product manufacturer fined $135,000 after death of innocent bystander

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15 February 2021

At a recent hearing in the Maroochydore Magistrates Court, a roof product manufacturing company was fined for its part in an incident which saw a man killed almost two years ago.

Part of the company’s business included manufacturing metal products such as flashing and roof sheeting and delivering these to customers. It leased two trucks with vehicle loading cranes from an associated company. One of those trucks was referred to as the ‘rack truck’ and the defendant was responsible for its maintenance. The crane attached to that particular truck was fitted with two stabilising legs, also referred to as outriggers, one on each side. Each outrigger was designed to readily slide outwards and retract. Two locking mechanisms were fitted to each outrigger to secure it in the retracted ‘transport position’ and prevent it extending. The primary mechanism was a spring-loaded handle which, when manually engaged would hold the retracted outrigger in place. The secondary mechanism was a hooked latch designed to automatically clip over a U-shaped bar once the outrigger was in the transport position. It was designed to prevent the outrigger from sliding outwards if the primary mechanism failed or was not engaged.

On 5 February 2018, a man employed by the defendant company, was driving the truck through a housing estate, when the passenger side outrigger on the crane extended, causing it to strike a parked van. The force pushed the van backwards, dragging another man who’d been standing at the back underneath it. He suffered fatal injuries.

Workplace Health and Safety Queensland investigators found the truck driver had failed to engage the primary locking mechanism on the passenger side outrigger before leaving the estate. The secondary locking mechanism was bent and worn. Testing showed this back-up device would not, on its own, have provided adequate and reliable restraint without an engaged primary locking mechanism. The investigation could not determine whether the passenger side outrigger extended as a result of a failure of the secondary locking mechanism or because the driver didn’t to properly retract the outrigger in the transport position.

At the time of the incident, the crane was well overdue for its 10-year major inspection as required by the Australian Standard and the manufacturer’s recommendations. The inspection was approximately 18 months overdue. The defendant did not have a maintenance plan or schedule in place to ensure periodic inspections and maintenance were done when required. The company was also aware of the need for a 10-year inspection, having received a quote for its other truck-mounted crane. A mandatory major inspection and service would have, amongst other things, included a check of the primary and secondary locking mechanisms to ensure they operated effectively and identified the need to fit a warning device in the vehicle cab to indicate when an outrigger was not in the transport position.

In sentencing, Magistrate Haydn Stjernqvist noted the defendant company was responsible for maintenance of the crane, with the truck and crane being used regularly in its business. Magistrate Stjernqvist referred to the aggravating circumstances of the case which included that the company had no system in place to ensure the trucks it used as part of its daily operations were properly maintained, the truck was being driven on public roads thus exposing unsuspecting members of the public to risk, and the defendant was aware of the need to conduct a 10 year major inspection for its other crane truck, yet had not made inquiries to obtain a quote for a similar service of the subject truck.

His Honour considered post-incident improvements made by the defendant, including the purchase of new cranes and the commencement of an ongoing service contract with a specialist company to inspect and maintain the cranes. He also took into account the defendant company’s lack of previous convictions, cooperation with the WHSQ investigation and guilty plea.

The company was convicted of an offence against section 32 of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 of failing to comply with health and safety duty as a person with management or control of plant at a workplace to ensure, so far as reasonably practicable, that the plant was without risks to the health and safety of any person and that failure exposed an individual to a risk of death or serious injury.

The defendant was fined $135,000 and ordered to pay professional and court costs of almost $1,600. No conviction was recorded.

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For any media enquiries, contact: enquiries@owhsp.qld.gov.au or 0478 33 22 00.