On 14 December 2016, the highest safety fine for a single OHS offence in Victoria was delivered to Toll Transport in the County Court of Victoria. It involved Toll’s shipping service at Webb Dock in Port Melbourne.
In 2014, a Toll stevedore was run over by a flat trailer and died. A flat trailer transports shipping containers which are pushed or pulled by prime movers on ramps to load ships at the dock.
A prime mover driver pushed a flat trailer towards a stevedore who was positioning rubber mats for the flat trailer. He was wearing a hi-visability vest and using earplugs. There was no spotter stevedore to direct the prime mover and watch for pedestrians (as required by procedure). The stevedore was struck and crushed under the wheels. His leg was amputated by the trailer and he suffered severe fatal injuries.
Toll pleaded guilty to breaching s21 of the OHS Act 2004 (Vic) in failing to maintain a safe system of work and was fined $1 million.
The case is directly applicable to all businesses where there is vehicle and pedestrian interaction – including even where you only have a visitor car park. Pedestrian and driver protection zones are essential, as are procedures for traffic management to separate so far as is possible any interactions where they must occur (eg. as was the case here where there were unloading operations).
While the sentencing reasons are not yet publicly available, we very much anticipate that comments will have been directed towards the fact that it is one thing to have a procedure, but it is entirely another to make sure it is supervised and enforced. What is often misunderstood is that supervision is not a question of practicable steps, but is an absolute duty.