Shipping operator Toll Transport has been convicted and fined a record A$1 million ($742,000) over the death of an employee who was crushed to death while helping load the Tasmanian Achiever at Webb Dock, Melbourne, Australia, in 2014.
The company pleaded guilty in the Melbourne County Court to one charge that it failed to maintain a safe system of work.
The company operates a shipping service between Webb Dock in Port Melbourne and Burnie in Tasmania using two ships, the Tasmanian Achiever and the Victorian Alliance.
The loading and unloading of the ships used a roll on, roll off procedure that involved shipping containers being placed onto low flat trailers capable of carrying up to four 20 foot shipping containers. When fully loaded, a trailer can weigh up to 90 tons, and they are then pulled on to the ship by trucks.
On the day of the incident, the 42-year-old stevedore was working on the deck of the Tasmanian Achiever placing rubber mats for the trailers to rest on during transit. He was wearing a hi-vis vest and using earplugs. As he worked, a trailer was pushed up the ramp by a truck. The driver stopped at the top of the ramp and then began moving the trailer into position. He did not see the stevedore and ran over him, crushing him under the wheels. The injured worker had his left leg amputated by the trailer and suffered other severe injuries. Colleagues used a forklift to lift the trailer off him but he died at the scene.
The court heard that Toll had a number of procedures in place. However, WorkSafe’s investigation found that these were inadequate. Critically, a key component of the safety procedures – that a fellow stevedore be positioned on the deck to assist with moving mats, directing the prime movers and watching for pedestrians – did not occur. There was no stevedore in position at the time of the incident.
The fine handed out to Toll on Wednesday is the largest ever handed down by a court in Victoria for a single offence under occupational health and safety laws.