Toll Transport Pty Ltd (Toll) was fined $1 million in December last year when an employee driving a prime mover ran over and fatally injured another employee, Mr Attard.
Toll had a written procedure for the work being undertaken by the driver of the prime mover and the injured employee however the written procedure was not followed on the day of the incident because the driver of the prime mover was not undertaking the work with the assistance of a junior employee as required.
Toll had undertaken and documented a risk review of the work involved in the incident in 2006. It identified that persons working in roles such as Mr Attard’s had a high risk of serious injury or death. This was because they worked in the vicinity of an operating prime mover and the vision of the driver of the prime mover was almost completely restricted at times.
Toll was prosecuted for failing to provide and maintain a working environment that is safe and without risks to health of its employees, so far as reasonably practicable.
Judge Cannon said that Toll’s system of work was ‘hopelessly inadequate and vague’ and that ‘this was a tragedy waiting to happen.’ Her Honour regarded Toll’s offence as ‘most serious and deserving of strong punishment and denunciation.’
The maximum penalty for the offence was $1,299,240, which was only reduced because Toll pleaded guilty, improved its safety after the incident, and displayed contrition and support for Mr Attard’s wife and three children.
Judge Cannon was particularly critical of Toll for failing to act on its knowledge about the risks of the work being undertaken and stated:
A strong message needs to be sent to employers whose employees are placed in highly dangerous situations… that they must do their utmost to ensure the safety of those employees. If they do not meet their obligations in this regard, then they should know that they will be met with strong punishment… in environments, as was the case here, where the risk of catastrophic injury or death is high, constant and readily foreseeable, the term “so far as reasonably practicable” must involve the creation of strict, rigorous and comprehensive standards which are then religiously maintained.
This case serves as a reminder for employers to be vigilant when undertaking risk assessments and implementing safe systems of work. Most tragically, an employer’s failure in this regard can result in serious injury or death of a person. It is for this reason that the Courts will impose a high penalty on those who do not meet the required safety standards. If any employers would like advice about their safety compliance and risks, they can contact our Workplace Relations and Safety team.