Truck fall leads to company and director conviction


Court deems safety systems substandard after worker suffers paraplegia

Truck fall leads to company and director conviction
The court hopes the penalty helps deter operators from skimping on their safety duties

 

A company and director have been convicted and fined more than $270,000 for failing to comply with their safety duties after a worker became a paraplegic after falling from a truck.

SafeWork NSW brought the case against Banana’s Truck & Tipper Hire (BTTH) and director David Monk after investigating the 2017 incident.

The NSW District Court heard the company owned a dual-cab truck with loader crane and bin.

During a tree removal job, while climbing out of the bin, a worker fell from a height of about three metres onto the road below and landed on the back of his head.

He suffered a skull fracture, broken ribs, a collapsed lung and spinal cord damage; the latter resulting in permanent paraplegia from the waist down.

The court heard at the time of the incident there was no safe method of access to or egress from the tray of the truck, such as a permanently fixed metal ladder to enable access when the back gate of the truck was open.

The only method of access to the bin of the truck involved climbing, either via the back gate when the gate was open or over the bin walls via the crane.

Further, BTTH did not develop, implement and enforce a safe method of work for loading the truck.

BTTH had a written generic SafeWork Methods Statement document from 2013 covering a large number of arboricultural safety hazards.

It was kept in the truck and was not reviewed before each job nor had anyone from BTTH gone through the document with the worker before the incident.

The worker had not been provided with specific training on loading the truck in accordance with the SWMS, and received only minimal training on truck loading.


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The court heard Monk was remorseful and had taken steps to improve company safety and his responsibilities as director thereafter.

Following the incident, BTTH consulted with its workers and developed a specific SWMS for the task of loading logs into the log truck. 

BTTH provided training to its workers on the method of work for loading the log truck, developed training materials, placed warning signs on the inside and outside of the truck instructing workers not to climb on the truck bin, and a ladder was fabricated and attached to the rear of the truck bin enabling access when the back gate is open.

The maximum penalty for the offence is $1,500,000 for the company and $300,000 for director.

The offences and level of culpability were deemed mid-range, with BTTH fined $225,000 and Monk $45,000, plus prosecutor’s costs, after early guilty pleas.

The court also notes Monk has since set up a new firm "due to the negative publicity associated with these proceedings".

 

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