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$450,000 fine for ‘avoidable’ excavator death

07-09-2010
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A transport company has been fined $450,000 following the “avoidable” death of a 30 year-old worker three years ago.

Nationwide Towing and Transport Pty Ltd was convicted and fined on two counts under the Occupational Health and Safety Act at the Melbourne County Court, following a 2007 incident at Narre Warren where a 20 tonne excavator slipped as it was unloaded from a trailer.

“This workplace fatality was entirely avoidable. The equipment provided by the company to do the job wasn’t appropriate, and the worker hadn’t been trained to identify the risks,” WorkSafe’s Acting Executive Director for Health and Safety Marlo Baragwanath said.

The court heard the worker was trying to drive a steel-tracked excavator off a steel-decked trailer when the excavator slipped and fell to the ground, killing the worker.

WorkSafe’s investigation found the trailer was too narrow to support the excavator, and the method of unloading was unsafe. The worker was required to drive the excavator from the trailer with its treads hanging over the sides of the trailer.

In addition, the investigation found the surface of the steel-decked trailer didn’t provide enough grip, increasing the risk of the excavator slipping when the trailer was tilted.

“This death is even more tragic because it echoes a similar situation which occurred less than two years earlier, where no-one was hurt,” Ms Baragwanath said.

“Despite the company changing its administrative processes following the first incident, to prevent this type of trailer being used to transport this type of excavator, their systems failed and a worker died.

“This was a tragic death which should have been prevented,” she said.

Judge Michael Bourke commented during the sentencing that the trailer used was inappropriate for machinery of this type and size.

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