Worker crushed by pipe costs company $86,500
13 May 2009
An Auckland cartage company has been ordered to pay $86,500 in fines and reparation after one of its drivers was struck by a half-tonne polyethylene pipe while his truck was being unloaded.
Tom Ryan Cartage Ltd earlier pleaded guilty in the Queenstown District Court to one charge under the Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992 of failing to take all practicable steps to ensure the safety of its employee. It was sentenced to pay a fine of $35,500 and pay reparation of $51,000 to the injured worker.
Department of Labour Southern Regional Manager for Workplace Health and Safety Services Sheila McBreen-Kerr says the injured worker suffered serious fractures to his spine. He was in hospital for three weeks after the February 2008 accident and then spent the next eight weeks in a wheelchair. Since then he has undergone several operations.
“Nine months later he was finally able to return to fulltime work. But it is unclear when or even if he will ever be able to return to his former job as a driver.”
“The tragic thing is that this accident – and the pain and suffering that resulted from it - was all preventable. At the time of the accident there was no safe operating procedure in place for unloading the pipes.
The incident occurred at Wanaka where the town’s sewage treatment plant was being upgraded. Tom Ryan Cartage had been subcontracted to transport the high density polyethylene pipes from Christchurch to Wanaka.
Before the accident some 19 loads of pipes had been delivered and unloaded at the site.
On 22 February 2008 the driver arrived with his load at the Wanaka site. As his load was being unloaded, he moved to the other side of the truck. However, as the loader picked up two pipes, it pushed a third pipe which caused a fourth to roll off onto the driver.
Ms McBreen-Kerr says the Department of Labour issued an alert to the transport industry in 1997 warning that the sides of loads can become unstable when they are being loaded or unloaded.
“The Department recommends that employers and employees in the transport and distribution industries ensure a safe practice policy for loading or unloading vehicles by crane or forklift is established in all workplaces.”
Ms McBreen-Kerr says that since the accident Tom Ryan Cartage has adopted a safe operating procedure that requires truck drivers to stand clear of their vehicles and any unloading vehicles; and for a line of sight between the driver and the loader-operator to be maintained at all times.
“Had this been in place, an accident that caused a lot of pain and suffering –as well as costing his employer $86,500 – might have been avoided.”
Note: Health and Safety services formerly called OSH should now be referred to as the Department of Labour.