Repairer convicted, fined $220,000 over dodgy chocks


Heavy vehicle repairer convicted and fined over incident that led to death of Intercoast Refrigerated Transport driver

Repairer convicted, fined $220,000 over dodgy chocks
Repairer convicted, fined $220,000 for dodgy chocks
By Brad Gardner | August 10, 2012

A heavy vehicle repairer has been convicted and fined more than $200,000 over an incident that led to the death of an Intercoast Refrigerated truck driver.

The Industrial Court of New South Wales held Autopool, which trades as Gilbert & Roach, liable for failing to put in place a safe system of work for one of its mechanics called out to repair an Intercoast truck in November 2008.

Michael Webb was fixing deflated airbags on a B-double at an inspection facility on the Pacific Highway when it rolled forward. The brakes were off and the truck driver was crushed to death when he ran after the vehicle to stop it.

Webb was not using purpose-built chocks to hold the truck in place, which WorkCover NSW says exposed him to risk. Autopool pleaded guilty to breaching the Occupational Health and Safety Act.

Justice Tricia Kavanagh says the company failed to provide Webb with appropriate equipment to complete his task and did not have in place a formal risk assessment process to identify hazards.

"There was a failure by the defendant corporation to put in place a safe system of work for this task. It was a serious offence as Mr Webb was at risk to his safety from the movement of the B-double vehicle while he was performing a repair," she says.

"He was not provided with the proper equipment, that is, rubber wheel chocks."

Kavanagh fined Autopool $220,000 and ordered it to pay WorkCover’s court costs. The company had been convicted under occupational health and safety law previously and faced a maximum penalty of $825,000.

"This was a most serious offence. The authorities require penalty to reflect the seriousness of the offence," Kavanagh says.

Webb took timber chocks with him when he left Autopool’s base to repair the truck because he could not find the rubber ones designed for heavy vehicles. Kavanagh ruled that the risk to Webb was foreseeable and could have been addressed by a proper risk assessment.

"Simple measures would have ensured the use of purpose-manufactured wheel chocks and a proper risk assessment of the repair task would have identified a need for them," she says.

Following the incident, Autopool instructed its mechanics to use only purpose-built chocks. The company now requires its mechanics to complete a checklist when a vehicle is handed over from one mechanic to another to identify any equipment that needs replacing. Mechanics must also complete a written breakdown risk assessment.

Kavanagh says Autopool did not have documented work practices in place relating to the replacement of heavy vehicle airbags.

"Autopool relied on the service manuals issued by the various manufacturers and trade training, experience and skills of its various employed mechanics to determine the procedure to be applied. This is not a proper system of work," she says.

The court ruled that the company needed to lay down specific rules and procedures to prevent the type of accident that occurred during the repair of the Intercoast vehicle.

"As to general deterrence, once more it must be reiterated to employers that each task it requires its employees to perform must be risk assessed and the obligation on the employer is to design each task in a safe manner," Kavanagh says.

Intercoast, which is being liquidated, and owner Antony Morfea were also held liable for the death of driver Gregory Phillips. A sentencing date to determine a penalty has not been set.




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