Timber company fined over injured truck driver

By: Jason Whittaker


The New South Wales Industrial Court has fined a company $115,000 after a truck driver was injured in what the

The New South Wales Industrial Court has fined a company $115,000 after a truck driver was injured in what the company argued was a result of his own negligence.

The court heard the driver, who was delivering timber to Allen Taylor & Co in 2005, stopped his truck in what he deemed an appropriate area and began talking to a nearby forklift driver about unloading the goods.

While removing chains and straps from the load, a second forklift on the other side of the truck disturbed part of the load which fell and seriously injured the driver.

The company argued the truck driver knew, based on his own statements, he should not have been near the truck at that time and had failed to attend to the site office as directed by a sign at the gateway to the plant.

Furthermore, it questioned why the driver was standing near the truck while the forklift driver began unloading the goods.

Despite this, the timber outlet pleaded guilty to charges for failing to provide and maintain a safe system of work and failing to train and instruct workers in a safe system of work.

The guilty plea came after Justice Wayne Haylen refuted the company’s defence, saying the situation could have been avoided had rudimentary steps been enforced.

"The requirement for the driver to stand clear of the forklift and to be in view of the forklift driver during the unloading exercise was not a complex instruction nor did it have to be conveyed in any elaborate document," Haylen says.

According to Haylen, even if the truck driver had attended the site office, he would have simply been directed to the forklift driver in the unloading area. The court was told no instructions had been given to the forklift driver to ensure the truck driver was clear of the truck during the unloading process.

Despite the driver’s statements, Haylen also disagreed with Allen Taylor & Co over the driver deciding to stand by his truck while another forklift came to empty the goods.

Haylen says it is "difficult to accept" the driver knew the other forklift was operating on the other side of the truck because he had stood clear of the truck while the first load was being removed.

Even if the driver had been aware of the second forklift, Haylen says Allen Taylor & Co still have an obligation in ensuring safe work practices.

"When a major industry player and a self-nominated industry leader fails to ensure the safety of persons in its workplace, in the manner found in this case, a general message needs to be sent to the other players in the industry", Haylen says.

"They must be alert to these basic tasks where simple steps will ensure the safety of people in the workplace but where the failure to fully attend to such risks can lead to dire consequences and very severe, if not fatal, injuries."

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