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SafeWork NSW gains company conviction over driver death

Timber supplier and director plead guilty after unloading fatality in 2017


Recent safety watchdog action over workplace incidents involving truck drivers continues as a NSW hardware company and director are convicted over a 2017 fatality.

A SafeWork NSW prosecution finds Campbelltown Hardware had taken inadequate steps to identify risk and respond to it in a documented and systematic way, while Muhammad Jawad Khalid failed to ensure such measures were put in place by the company when Brian Piper was killed in an unloading incident on December 5.

The NSW District Court heard Piper was driving a truck owned by his employer, MLA Logistics Pty Ltd, and was delivering timber supplied by Wesbeam Pty Ltd from St Marys to Campbelltown’s premises.

Piper’s truck, loaded by a forklift operator at Wesbeam, was overloaded, overweight and stacked unusually, with larger packs of timber stacked on top of smaller ones, and multiple packs sitting at an angle.

Each pack of timber weighed between 200kg and 800kg.

Piper strapped the load before driviving Campbelltown’s premises for delivery.

While unloading together with a forklift driver, who had no effective line of sight, two packs of timber fell from the top of the truck and struck Piper, who died from cardiac arrest caused by extensive head injuries.

Recent cases have emerged in NSW, Victoria and Northern Territory

The court heard that, among Campbelltown’s shortcomings:

  • There was no formal documented system, process or procedure in place for providing forklift drivers with a direct line of sight to the drivers of trucks unloading at the premises
  • There was an informal process for inducting Campbelltown’s own workers but not for visitors to the premises. Piper was not provided with an induction when he arrived at the premises
  • Khalid did not ensure Campbelltown had available to it and utilised sufficient resources to ensure that each forklift operator had available to them an allocated spotter to assist with unloading
  • There was no documented process or written safe work procedure for the unloading of trucks at the premises
  • No documented system was in place at the premises for reporting, assessing or reviewing hazards. There was no documented risk assessment conducted by Campbelltown in relation to the loading or unloading of trucks at its premises.
  • There was no documented system in place for maintaining records in relation to the currency of high risk licences of Campbelltown’s employees to operate forklift trucks.

Following the incident, SafeWork NSW issued the company a number of improvement notices.

In response, Campbelltown developed and implemented a documented risk assessment of the task of loading and unloading timber from trucks; developed, implemented and maintained a documented safe system of work for the loading and unloading of trucks at the premises; moved its business to a more suitable Smeaton Grange site; and ceased to own its own forklifts and instead leased them, with all forklift maintenance undertaken on a regular basis by the leasing company.

In all, the company spent $171,210 on the improvements.

Despite the specific shortcomings leading up to and during the incident, Judge Scotting accepted “Campbelltown and [Khalid] have always been committed to workplace safety and understand the importance of the need to comply with the legislation” and the death “has had a profound adverse impact on Mr Khalid”.

However, he adds that, while the actual risk to Piper was contributed to by others, “if Campbelltown had implemented the appropriate control measures, all risks posed to Mr Piper could have been eliminated”.

Due to a lack of previous convictions, good prospects of rehabilitation, remorse and financial hardship, a company fine of $75,000 (from a possible maximum $1.5 million) was imposed, with convictions recorded against Campbelltown Hardware and Khalid.


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