Truck driver's employer found guilty

Wednesday, 23 February, 2005

The death of a truck driver near Grafton has resulted in his employer being found guilty in the NSW Industrial Relations Commission sitting in court session of two breaches of the Occupational Health and Safety Act 1983.

James Gordon Hitchcock, a director of the Nowra-based Sayogi Pty Ltd, had pleaded not guilty to the charges brought by WorkCover NSW. The truck driver, an employee of Sayogi Pty Ltd, died on 1 September 1999 when his vehicle collided with another semi-trailer and burst into flames on the Pacific Highway at Tyndale, near Grafton.

Hitchcock was charged with breaching Section 15(1) of the Act, for failing to ensure the health and safety of an employee, and of breaching Section 16(1), for failing to ensure that persons not in his employ were not exposed to risk. The court found that the evidence disclosed beyond reasonable doubt that the truck driver who died was fatigued at the time of the accident. Further, that the systems of work operated by the company had the effect of increasing the risks associated with long distance driving. For instance, driving rosters did not take into account the effect of fatigue, the company pressured its drivers to meet delivery deadlines, and drivers risked their jobs or income if they failed to comply. Vice President Walton of the IRC adjourned the matter for sentencing at a later date.

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