The ACT Industrial Court has found Kenoss Contractors Pty Ltd (in liquidation) liable for safety breaches under the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (ACT) following the death of a truck driver. Kenoss was fined $1.1 million.

Kenoss was contracted by the ACT Government to complete resurfacing road works. Kenoss subcontracted David O'Meley Truck Hire to deliver materials to the project site. Michael Booth (the deceased driver), was a delivery truck driver for that entity. Mr Booth made multiple deliveries to the site, including on at least thirteen occasions in the fifteen days prior to the accident.

Industrial Magistrate Walker considered evidence that, on the day of the accident, when Mr Booth tipped the tilt tray of his delivery truck, the tilt tray either came very close to, or connected with, live wires above the storage compound. The power lines formed an electric arc, leaving burn marks under the truck's partially-deflated tyres. The lines were obscured by foliage. Mr Booth was electrocuted and later died from related complications.

The Industrial Magistrate considered the circumstances that gave rise to a significant risk of serious injury or death and identified a number of safety breaches that led to Mr Booth's death, including that:

  1. there were no safety signs or flags (tiger tails) to warn of the live power lines;
  2. access to the work site was poorly managed;
  3. there were no locks on the smaller storage compound, which appeared as if it was designed for dumping material;
  4. the power lines had not been turned off during the work;
  5. no spotter was used;
  6. simply directing that the site not be used by large machines was an inadequate step to manage site safety; and
  7. the project manager relinquished responsibility for the identified risk to the foreman, with no process in place to ensure compliance.

The Industrial Magistrate found that there were a number of relatively simple safety measures that could have eliminated the risk including:

  1. not using the site at all;
  2. limiting access to the site, particularly by securing the fence around it;
  3. having the electricity supply turned off if a delivery to the site was required;
  4. requiring that any deliveries be accompanied by a spotter;
  5. providing appropriate signage as to the particular risk of overhead power lines, such as a sign on the gate or fence surrounding the site;
  6. placing flags or 'tiger tails' on the lines themselves to make them more visible; and
  7. warning all potential users of the site about the presence of, and risk associated with, the lines at the compound, in particular through a site induction.

Kenoss was found to have breached the Act by failing to ensure the health and safety of workers and further, by failing to ensure that workers were not exposed to risk of death, serious injury or illness.

A maximum penalty of $1.5 million could have been imposed on Kenoss, and $300,000 on an officer. The penalty imposed of $1.1 million serves as a warning that courts will take a hard line stance when the safety of workers, including truck drivers, is put at risk by careless site practices.

Click here to read the complete decision: Mckie v Al-Hasani and Kenoss Contractors Pty Ltd (in liq) [2015] ACTIC 1.

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