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Enormous Concrite fine for ‘foreseeable’ tanker driver death

Penalty of $450,000 as preventable safety shortcomings are laid bare

 

Boral firm Concrite is convicted and fined $450,000 after the death of a fuel delivery driver in 2017.

The concrete production and supplies subsidiary pleaded guilty and accepted responsibility for the incident and its failings when, on September 20, 2017, Caltex tanker driver Peter Lees was fatally struck by a concrete mixer at Concrite’s Alexandria, NSW, site.

The NSW District Court heard Lees was delivering fuel to the site when he stepped in front of a Concrite mixing truck that was attempting to drive past another Concrite vehicle.

That driver unknowingly struck Lees and dragged him for about 20 metres.

Lees died two days later from his injuries.

It’s noted that, while Boral oversees Concrite’s governance framework, the day-to-day operations of the site are managed by the latter.

Thus Concrite was charged with, and pleaded guilty to, exposing workers to the risk of death or serious injury.

The court heard Concrite applied WHS policies and procedures developed by Boral relevant to its own operations, including traffic management, however it did not have an adequate system for managing the risk of pedestrian and vehicle interaction or a means of protecting pedestrians from vehicle collisions.

For example:

  • Concrite did not conduct a review of the safe operating procedure (SOP) or implement a system whereby an effective site map with traffic management controls or a procedure for the handover of delivery dockets was available
  • There were no direct pedestrian routes to access the office or clearly marked walkways. Where there were walkways, the painted markings were either faded or not present. There was no signage directing people toward those walkways.
  • The rear yard walkway running along the back fence was narrow and at the same level as the rest of the yard. Being at ground level, the area could also become slippery because of the trucks backing toward the walkway and hosing down immediately next to the path. Sometimes there were large items stored in the walkways that would impede the walking path.
  • Concrite had a document titled ‘Site Map’ which demonstrated an entry/exit gate traffic flow in a clockwise direction. While the Site Map directs a route dependent on the type of vehicle entering, it does not specify designated pedestrian walking zones or exclusion zones.

The court also heard a Boral safety alert for a pedestrian incident before the 2017 fatality saw Conrite review its traffic management risks but fail to properly implement the controls at its Alexandria site.

Further, while Concrite had a written induction process in place, it was not effectively implemented in practice and Lee and other Caltex employees had previously entered the site without receiving an induction.


It’s not the first time a Boral firm is penalised over heavy vehicle matters


After the incident, Concrite was issued a SafeWork NSW Improvement Notice requiring it to revise control measures implemented for traffic management.

A new system was implemented with diesel deliveries by large tankers ceased, while concrete mixer drivers were issued with fuel cards to refuel their vehicles off site.

Post-incident traffic management plans were also developed for several different vehicle types, including deliveries and visitors, concrete mixer trucks and various tippers.

Each of the plans, specific to vehicle types, was allocated a specific route when on site.

In convicting Concrite, Judge Strathdee says the fixes could and should have been implemented earlier, as the risk of a worker being struck by a vehicle at the site was highly foreseeable – and known to Concrite.

“Notwithstanding this, the defendant failed to adequately implement its systems and take appropriate steps to safeguard against the risk.

“Taking the appropriate measures would not have entailed significant burden or cost.

“The steps taken post incident were in line with the defendant’s pre-incident documented procedures.”

The initial fine was $600,000, reduced by 25 per cent on the early plea, with a further $43,000 in prosecution costs to be paid by Concrite.

 

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