Company fined for ignoring post-fatality safety warnings

Friday, 25 August, 2023

Company fined for ignoring post-fatality safety warnings

Gippsland transport company Peter Stoitse Transport Pty Ltd has been convicted and fined $110,000 after two drivers were injured in separate milk tanker incidents in 2020. The company pleaded guilty to failing to provide or maintain safe plant, failing to ensure persons other than employees were not exposed to health and safety risks, and failing to provide or maintain safe systems of work. The company was also ordered to pay costs of $6358.

The offending followed earlier convictions and a $490,000 fine against Peter Stoitse Transport in June 2022 after the 2018 death of a tanker driver in an incident at Leongatha. In the latest prosecution, the court heard a worker raised issues with a tanker he was to drive in February 2020, but a supervisor dismissed the concerns and deemed the truck safe. Driving in Poowong East, the driver realised the brakes were faulty and, as he attempted to slow, the prime mover and trailer drifted in opposite directions and jack-knifed. The driver was taken to hospital with soft tissue and finger injuries.

An investigation by WorkSafe Victoria found a number of safety issues with the tanker, including inefficiently performing brake slack adjusters, which slowed the reaction time of the trailer brakes, and deflated suspension airbags, which could cause a trailer to roll over.

In June 2020, another worker was driving down Korumburra-Inverloch Road when the trailer suddenly began to sway and the truck lost control before rolling into a ditch. The driver was taken to hospital with bruising and swelling to his forearm. WorkSafe found various serious safety issues, including worn brake drums on the prime mover and trailer, and worn suspension shackle brushes that needed replacing. It was reasonably practicable for the company to ensure its tankers were kept in a safe mechanical condition or replace them, and to maintain a system of work to ensure vehicles with reported mechanical defects were not driven until repaired.

WorkSafe Executive Director of Health and Safety Narelle Beer said it is clear that the company had not drawn lessons from its previous failures. “It’s horrifying that a company can be so negligent as to not learn from a tragedy that cost somebody their life. WorkSafe will not hesitate to prosecute any employer who puts the lives and safety of their workers at risk while on the road,” Beer said.

To manage work-related vehicle risks, WorkSafe Victoria advises employers to ensure appropriate safe systems of work are in place and that these are regularly monitored, reviewed and, if necessary, revised. Employers must also ensure that regular vehicle inspections, servicing and maintenance are undertaken by competent persons in accordance with the manufacturer’s recommendations. Pre-operations checks must also be conducted daily on essential components such as brakes, steering, tyres (including pressure), indicators, oil leaks and suspension, with defects to be rectified by competent persons. Untrained, unlicensed or inexperienced people must not be allowed to operate vehicles.

Employers are also advised to implement a system to ensure people are competent to conduct the work — this should include instructions, information about the work, mentoring and assessment, toolbox training and refresher training even for experienced employees. Appropriate rules and standards for safe road use must also be implemented, with the load factor of the vehicle to be taken into consideration. All safety information must be communicated to drivers, to enable them to perform their work in a way that is safe and without risks to health.

Image credit: Barraud

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