Company convicted after employee truck fatality

04-05-2010

In December 2006, 21 year-old Bradley Alford was crushed to death when the Mack truck he was driving went out of control on a steep slope, overturned, and crushed him.

His employer, Orbit Drilling Pty Ltd, recently became the first company in Victoria to be convicted for recklessly endangering a worker.

Orbit was convicted and fined $750,000 under section 32 of the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004.

The Melbourne County Court found that Orbit Drilling failed to ensure Bradley was properly instructed and trained to operate the truck off-road on a steep slope; and failed to ensure the truck he was driving was in proper working order.

Bradley had held a licence to drive a Mack truck for little more than two weeks when he died – which involved only eleven hours of driving lessons. He was instructed to drive the overweight Mack truck in off-road conditions on a slope exceeding 10 degrees, at Clobnane in Victoria.

Instead of reversing onto a drilling pad located on top of a steep hill, the truck gained speed before rolling over at the bottom of the hill. Bradley was ejected from the truck’s cabin crushed to death beneath the truck.

Bradley – as a recently qualified Mack truck driver – was not trained to understand gear selection for this terrain. He hadn’t undergone an induction or safety training, nor had he had the chance to build up his heavy vehicle skills under supervision.

WorkSafe’s investigation also established the truck’s primary brake and the emergency hand brake wasn’t working, and the secondary brake had been disconnected. In addition, the truck hadn’t been serviced for over six months.

“If the truck had been in proper working order and Bradley had been a properly qualified and experienced driver, there’s no reason why this task couldn’t have been safely completed,” WorkSafe Victoria’s Acting Executive Director for Health and Safety Stan Krpan said.

“The investigator who managed this case has told me this is the worst example of failing to maintain vehicles or machinery that he has seen in 24 years on the job.

“The prosecution was able to prove that through the actions of the company's personnel, the company was recklessly indifferent to placing Bradley Alford at risk of serious injury because he was instructed to use an unsafe truck in particularly dangerous circumstances,” he said.

Judge Felicity Hampbell said: “A case such as this is a stark reminder that behind every occupational health and safety prosecution is a real person … someone’s sibling, child, spouse or friend, whose safety and wellbeing should at all times be the paramount concern of every employer.”

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