NSW company in huge fine over mechanic death


Shortfalls in company safety process exposed worker to death

NSW company in huge fine over mechanic death
SafeWork inspectors: the deceased only had light vehicle qualifications

 

A NSW fleet-owning construction services firm has been convicted and fined $375,000 over the death of a mechanic killed while repairing a truck.

Reece Marchello, 27, died in October 2017 when a Hino owned by Termeil-based South Coast Under Road Borers (SCURB) Pty Ltd rolled and crushed him on a slope near a dam on the company premises.

SCURB, a provider of underground directional drilling, vacuum extraction and trenching, hired Marchello three weeks before the incident as an in-house mechanic.

The NSW Distrct Court heard Marchello’s role, despite being a qualified light vehicle mechanic, "was to include developing and maintaining all policies and procedures for the maintenance and servicing of the offender’s light and heavy vehicles".

The Hino rigid, one of the company’s fleet of 10, was fitted with a vacuum tank and two mechanical pumps to vacuum dirt and mud from its drilling sites.

After being used in the field, the truck would be driven back to the premises, where the mud and dirt would be tipped from the tank of the truck.

At the time of the incident, only one of the two vacuum pumps was running correctly.

On October 23, after a job was completed, a driver parked adjacent to a man-made dam located at the premises to dump the mud.

The truck was parked uneven, on soft dirt and had an incline that sloped towards the edge of the dam.

One of the hydraulic hoses on the truck had also failed.

The wheels were not chocked when Marchello was working alone with a jack under the truck, which suddenly became displaced.

The truck rolled about three to four metres towards the dam, with Marchello fatally pinned underneath.


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SafeWork initiated the prosecution of SCURB.

The court heard the company’s premises was largely used as a depot, was in the process of constructing a workshop for its fleet, and had previously contracted mechanical work out.

Minor repairs were performed at the premises and included some work underneath vehicles.

However, "there was no single designated area within the premises where minor repair work, general maintenance and servicing was to occur," Judge Scotting noted.

"The workers should not have performed work on the truck in the location that it was parked on the day of the incident."

Further, the court heard SCURB did not provide purpose-designed wheel chocks for any of its vehicles, had not undertaken or documented a formal risk assessment for repair work on its fleet, and had not developed a safe work method statement.

Marchello also had no specific formal training or experience as a motor mechanic or automotive engineer working on heavy vehicles, and was not qualified to do so.

The company accepted the shortcomings of its recruitment process, noting it was "not aware of the limit to the category of vehicle that Mr Marchello could work on", and accepted "that there was a lack of specific training, procedures and direction given to Mr Marchello as a new employee".

"The steps that could have been taken to eliminate the risk were simple, inexpensive and well known," Judge Scotting added.

"This is a case where the offender had no system in place for the servicing of its heavy vehicles on the premises.

"It did have substantial systems in place for the directional drilling work that was mainly conducted elsewhere.

"Mr Marchello was not qualified to work on heavy vehicles.

"No risk assessment was undertaken for the work that he was performing at the time of the incident.

"It was anticipated that formal procedures would be adopted when the servicing facility at the premises was completed.

"This reflects that the offender knew that those procedures were required for the maintenance work to be performed on site but that it did not develop or implement them.

"The offender could have continued to have its vehicles serviced by competent third parties until adequate procedures were put in place for the maintenance work to be performed on site.

"Purpose-designed wheel chocks were available at minimal cost."

Since the accident, SCURB had addressed its shortcomings, Judge Scotting noted.

Its original penalty of $500,000 was reduced 25% upon an early guilty plea.

 

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